In early October, Pittsylvania County’s administrator disclosed to two board members and the county attorney that his family’s financial relationship with a board member-owned company “has potentially infiltrated” his job, show documents obtained by the Danville Register & Bee.

That email, by Pittsylvania County Administrator David Smitherman, came about two weeks before Blair Homes — a local residential construction company co-owned by supervisor Ben Farmer and his wife — filed the first of two mechanic’s liens against Smitherman and his wife. The couple had contracted Blair Homes to build their new home in Penhook.

Sent Oct. 11, the county administrator explained in the email to county attorney Vaden Hunt that his family was currently “engaged in a monetary dispute” with Blair Homes, adding the company had just communicated its intent to pursue a lien.

Smitherman then wrote that Farmer canceled a lunch they had scheduled for that day in a text message. Smitherman wrote that the text message also stated Farmer “would like to refrain from meeting with me until outstanding matters with Blair Homes are resolved.”

By the time he sent the email to Hunt, Smitherman wrote he had already explained the situation to Bob Warren and Ron Scearce, who were the board chairman and vice chairman at the time, respectively.

“I know of no reason this needs to be shared with the entire Board; my intention is only to disclose my financial relationship with Blair Homes and that such has potentially infiltrated my employment/professional relationship with Mr. Farmer,” Smitherman’s email read.

In early December, Blair Homes filed a complaint in Pittsylvania County Circuit Court calling for the enforcement of the liens, which totaled $121,297.43 plus interest.

In response, the Smithermans filed a $350,000 countersuit in 13 days later, accusing Blair Homes of fraud, violations of the Virginia Consumer Protection Act and breach of contract.

In his Oct. 11 email, Smitherman attached the screenshot of the text message conversation for Hunt to keep in his record.

Within the seven-message text conversation, Farmer explained he believed it would be best to “pause” the pair’s monthly meetings until matters with Blair Homes were resolved.

“To me, this is a small ask to ensure our future work relationship stays healthy,” wrote the Gretna supervisor in his final text message.

In responding to the initial cancelation from Farmer, Smitherman texted that he was disappointed that Farmer wasn’t able to separate their work relationship from the business, adding that he has a “firm black line” between his personal and business life.

“I will always place my priority and my utmost professionalism to our relationship, Ben,” Smitherman texted. “I will support you as a supervisor and will continue to dedicate my work to your success.”

Farmer texted back that while the business and work are separate, once his wife became involved she became his first priority.

“Family always comes first with me,” he texted.

Farmer noted he would “continue to be professional and represent my district the best I know how to.”

He reiterated this sentiment in an email to Hunt, following up Smitherman’s, where he explained the lunch meeting wasn’t one where attendance was required.

“I will be present at all functions that are required of me,” said Farmer in the email.

On Monday, Warren said beyond the October email, the issue hasn’t really concerned the board as it’s remained a “personal” matter between Smitherman and Farmer. He said he hasn’t noticed any changes in the pair’s relationship.

“Both gentlemen have been very professional and carried out the responsibilities of the positions to the full degree,” Warren said. “It’s not within the realm of board of supervisor business as long as they’re doing their respective responsibilities to the citizens of Pittsylvania County.”

Neither Farmer nor Smitherman would comment on their relationship beyond the email and the messages in the screenshot. Scearce did not return a request for comment.

No date is set for the lawsuit to be heard.

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Halle Parker reports for the Danville Register & Bee. Contact her at hparker@registerbee.com or (434) 791-7981.

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