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Virginia Beach lawyer vows to 'bring the fight' to Martinsville City Attorney Eric Monday over cease-and-desist letter to businessman

Virginia Beach lawyer vows to 'bring the fight' to Martinsville City Attorney Eric Monday over cease-and-desist letter to businessman

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Henry County businessman Ray Reynolds has hired an attorney who seems to want to know why Martinsville City Attorney and Assistant City Manager Eric Monday was authorized to write a threatening letter to Reynolds based on a private conversation he had with a member of the Martinsville City Council.

Monday threatened in a letter on city stationery last week to file suit against Reynolds and seek his arrest and incarceration if he didn’t stop public comments that emerged after an allegedly private telephone conversation with council member Jennifer Bowles.

Reynolds, 59, a photographer and construction contractor and an admitted outspoken supporter of President Donald Trump, said he reached out to Bowles, an African-American, as a friend to ask her if she could help to defuse the escalating comments about his reputation on social media.

But that conversation turned public when Bowles did not agree to help and the two exchanged words that became more fodder for more social media comments.

Monday wrote a strongly worded letter to Reynolds in which he threatened civil action and then to pursue arrest and jail on what he said would be “contempt charges.” The City Council had not in public session endorsed Monday’s letter, and one expert has questioned the legality of using city resources to enter a personal dispute.

“Tim Anderson has agreed to help me with the attacks against me because I support President Trump,” Reynolds said. “I have been under attack for four weeks now, and I refuse to cower down to bullies.”

Anderson, who has been practicing law since 2003, is based in Virginia Beach and has five satellite offices in Virginia and North Carolina.

“I talked to him at 11 a.m., paid him at 2 p.m. and at 4 p.m. he was already working on my case,” Reynolds said.

That work included an email sent at 3:49 p.m. Monday from Anderson to Martinsville City Manager Leon Towarnicki, Monday and all members of the City Council, demanding, under the Freedom of Information Act, copies of all communication, authorization, or direction from Towarnicki and City Council to Monday, authorizing Monday to write the cease-and-desist letter to Reynolds “on official letterhead on behalf of the city of Martinsville.”

The demand includes copies of “any written communication, including emails, text messages, resolutions, council minutes or council activity, to include all communication to and from the City Attorney on any points related to the issues addressed” in Monday’s letter involving Reynolds and Bowles.

“They called me a racist because I support Trump,” Reynolds said. “Then I started getting threats, and my truck was vandalized.”

Reynolds said, when he called Bowles, “She said, ‘I’m not going to help you because you are racist.’ That’s when I started fighting back.

“I put their names on Facebook, telling everyone what they said, and they got upset.”

That included a 30-minute video — since removed — in which he named Bowles and other people in the community whom he said had made derogatory remarks either to him or about him.

Bowles has refused to talk to the Bulletin about details of the telephone conversation other than to say that “all claims made in the video are false and untrue” and “other statements made in private messages that I’ve seen are also untrue and false.”

But she did respond on the Martinsville Bulletin’s Facebook page after an article was published about the phone call and Monday’s letter to Reynolds.

“Harsh words, disagreements, or a difference of opinion wouldn’t bother me as that happens frequently when people are passionate in their beliefs, but a threat is a threat, and I am concerned for my safety,” Bowles wrote. “This was not a personal matter as I’ve never spoken to this individual other than when he asked to take a picture at an event.

“I’m not sure why I was called, and I had to ask who it was.

“I will continue to maintain my professionalism and do my job regardless of the outright lies and attacks against me.”

How well one must be acquainted with another in order to discuss a personal matter is not at issue for Anderson, but Monday’s involvement as the city attorney and his invoking the power of the city against Reynolds is.

Anderson’s demand to the city includes a “financial accounting of all time from the City Attorney for public resources used to author” the letter to Reynolds down to the cost of the postage stamp used to mail it.

Anderson also wants any documentation giving Monday specific authorization to represent a member of council individually in the capacity of the City Attorney.

Monday told the Bulletin he sent the letter to Reynolds in his capacity as city attorney for Bowles in her capacity as “an elected leader of the city.”

“I’m not aware of any recording of the conversation; I understand Ms. Bowles has a witness,” Monday said. “The letter itself references the claims Mr. Reynolds made, and apparently continues to make, about Ms. Bowles — that she called him a racist and threatened to silence him for his political views.

“Mr. Reynolds’ claims are untrue, and he should stop making them.”

Anderson posted Monday’s letter to Reynolds on his law firm’s Facebook page on Monday and introduced Reynolds as a new client.

“If you support President Trump — you are not a racist,” Anderson wrote. “If you support the police and law and order — you are not a racist.

“You are a racist if you hate someone because of the color of their skin. Period.

“Time to bring the fight again.”

Bill Wyatt is a reporter for the Martinsville Bulletin. He can be reached at 276-638-8801, Ext. 236. Follow him @billdwyatt

Bill Wyatt is a reporter for the Martinsville Bulletin. He can be reached at 276-638-8801, Ext. 236. Follow him @billdwyatt

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