A former aide to Del. Dawn Adams, D-Richmond, has filed a federal lawsuit accusing Adams of “hacking” into her personal email records to delete files related to work the aide performed for Adams’ medical consulting business.
Maureen Hains, who worked as Adams’ campaign manager in 2017 and was later hired as her legislative aide, filed the suit Thursday.
The suit, first reported by Courthouse News, seeks $550,000 in damages and accuses Adams of violating state and federal computer fraud and privacy laws.
Adams did not immediately respond to a request for comment Friday afternoon. She has not yet filed a response in a court.
Though the case has not been adjudicated, the lawsuit could present a significant complication for Adams ahead of a tough re-election fight this year.
The suit suggests Adams knew or had access to the common password Hains used for Facebook, Google and Wells Fargo accounts.
While Hains was hospitalized in April for an unspecified health issue, the suit says, Adams began “pressuring” her about her job status. A few days later, Hains claims, someone signed in to her Facebook and Gmail accounts from an IP address connected to Adams. On May 3, Hains received an email saying her Wells Fargo account had been suspended due to a “possible unauthorized attempt to sign on.”
The suit says Adams asked Hains to perform a “substantial amount” of unpaid medical coding work for a health consulting company Adams founded in mid-2018, which Hains says may have violated patient privacy laws. “Almost all” of the emails related to that work were deleted from Hains’ personal email account during the alleged intrusion, the suit claims, and a Google Drive folder containing “spreadsheets and billing sheets” was gone.
Adams accessed the accounts, the suit alleges, to “cover up” details of her aide’s work related to her medical business and “destroy information that could lead to more criticism from Adams’ political opponents.”
The suit suggests Adams also attempted to have Hains’ personal emails forwarded to other accounts. Hains could not be reached for comment Friday.
Adams aide Kelly Eichfeld deferred questions to Kathryn Gilley, a spokeswoman for the House Democratic Caucus. Gilley said she could not comment on a pending lawsuit.
Adams, a nurse practitioner who worked for the state Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services before starting her consulting business, is serving in her first term. After taking office in 2018, she said she intended to keep her job at a state agency while serving in the legislature, an arrangement the Republican Party of Virginia called “unethical double-dipping.”
Adams won an upset victory in 2017, topping Del. Manoli Loupassi in a Richmond-area district long held by Republicans. She’s currently facing a challenge from Republican Garrison Coward, a former aide to U.S. Rep. Robert J. Wittman, R-1st.