Home Augusta County man alleges ‘hate crime’ in decade-old sewer project: Investigation

Augusta County man alleges ‘hate crime’ in decade-old sewer project: Investigation

Chris Graham
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Back around the first of the year, a reader named David Proffitt wrote me the first of dozens of emails, and counting, asking me to look into what he called a “hate crime” involving a sewer project in Augusta County.

Turns out, the sewer project in the Greenville area in the southern part of the county was an otherwise routine public-improvement project.

The work is about a decade in the past now, and the project didn’t require much from property owners to be able to sign onto – a public-records request to the county turned up for me a copy of a deposit the county tried to return to Proffitt in the amount of a mere $100.

And the “hate crime” that Proffitt alleges appears to be overstated – it involves the project going through a plot of land that he says was a former slave family cemetery, though there is no evidence that there was, in fact, a slave family cemetery in the area.

One other allegation from Proffitt – that the sewer-line project caused damage to his property – is at question since Proffitt ultimately declined to sign a waiver to allow the contractor access to his property to install the sewer line, instead requesting payment for an easement to allow the line to be installed that the county declined to authorize.

Because of this, the county adjusted the design for the project, which was originally going to cross over his property, to move the sewer line to cross the property of one of Proffitt’s neighbors instead.

Proffitt clearly feels he was wronged

The emails that Proffitt forwarded to me, and the emails that I obtained from the county from my public-records request, show that Proffitt clearly felt he was being wronged, and still feels this way today.

Proffitt, according to the records of the communications, sent multiple emails to a county government fraud tipline, to members of the Augusta County Board of Supervisors, to state legislators, to officials in Washington, even calling 911 to try to get the Augusta County Sheriff’s Office involved.

All of those efforts detailed the issues with his request to be compensated for the easement, for the purported property damage, and then for what he feels was unfair treatment by county officials, singling out County Administrator Tim Fitzgerald and Mike Shull, who represents the Riverheads District on the Board of Supervisors and is the board’s current chair.

From one of his emails, this one dating to 2019, seven years after work on the project had commenced, Proffitt reported to a state legislator feeling like a “victim of a hate crime.”

“The cult-like racist environment of Augusta County needs to be exposed. But nobody wants to get their friends in trouble. I hope you don’t share this view,” Proffitt wrote in the email.

Several of his emails to me used similar language directed at me, after I’d raised questions to him asking him for any corroboration of his claims – perhaps the name and contact information of a neighbor with whom he had discussed the issues as they were ongoing, email or other correspondence from county officials that he felt was out of line, anything that I could use to try to find evidence supporting his contentions.

Basically, anything other than his word that he was wronged.

“Has the racist-led cult of Augusta County Virginia convinced you not to report on the hate crime?” he wrote to me in one email. “Does Mike Shull of the Riverheads District have you scared to take a stand against his dictatorship?”

I wrote Proffitt back to let him know that, at that time, I was actively engaged in a protracted legal battle with the county over a closed meeting of the Board of Supervisors in 2023 in which county officials discussed the resignation of Steven Morelli, who before his resignation was the South River District representative of the board, in the wake of sexual-harassment allegations brought by two county employees.

So, no, not scared.

I ended up getting to the point with this matter, as the email back-and-forth continued, that perhaps Proffitt expected that I would just report his allegations as fact because I’ve been engaged in a public feud with the county and the Board of Supervisors over the Morelli resignation.

The reality of the matter is, I don’t want to do anybody in county government any favors, but I’m going to need something to work with, you know?

I made Proffitt aware of this, and told him that I didn’t want to write a story based on the information that I’d gathered from all of the interested parties that I felt would make him look bad, out of respect.

His response: “I still hold out hope to be publicly heard, even if it seems to show me in a bad light.”

Chris Graham

Chris Graham

Chris Graham, the king of "fringe media," is the founder and editor of Augusta Free Press. A 1994 alum of the University of Virginia, Chris is the author and co-author of seven books, including Poverty of Imagination, a memoir published in 2019, and Team of Destiny: Inside Virginia Basketball’s Run to the 2019 National Championship, and The Worst Wrestling Pay-Per-View Ever, published in 2018. For his commentaries on news, sports and politics, go to his YouTube page, or subscribe to his Street Knowledge podcast. Email Chris at [email protected].