Augusta County Supervisors' Text Message Tango: Butch Wells, Steve Morelli, and 'That Woman'
Updated: Oct 14
Written by: Sam Orlando
The Mystery of "That Woman"
AUGUSTA COUNTY, VIRGINIA - Drama isn’t new to Augusta County, but this recent episode might just outshine the rest. Text message exchanges, obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request, between Augusta County Board of Supervisors member, Mr. G.L. "Butch" Wells, and disgraced resigned former board member Steve Morelli have locals talking. In one message, Wells seems to express disdain for someone he refers to as "that woman". The context? Discussions around Morelli's resignation, which, according to Board Chairman Mike Shull, was due to a sexual harassment allegation. Shull mentioned the sexual harassment complaint during an open board meeting on July 12, 2023, which was reported at the time by the Augusta Free Press.
Tangled in Text
The back-and-forth between Mr. Wells and Mr. Morelli is a whirlwind. Here's an excerpt:
A Loving Start
Morelli starts with, "Are you done with the meeting?" Wells replies, "Yep- missed you!! I love you man! Call me anytime and I'll stay in touch." From a routine check-in to a sudden outpour of emotion, Wells seems to hint at more than just the meeting. For more context, the meeting Morelli referenced was the one he skipped, where the Board discussed his resignation in an executive session, or non-public meeting. This is of course one of the meetings Augusta Board member Scott Seaton recorded, and that many members of the press are trying to get their hands on.
Morelli responds: "Thanks Butch I'm always here for you and Donna." The bond between the two is evident. Morelli seems genuinely appreciative of Well's help or friendship, upon reading the texts.
The Sudden Cold Turn
Then, Wells states, "Going out for a walk before my head explodes- I despise that woman." From camaraderie to exasperation, one has to wonder: who is this mysterious woman?
Selectively Forgetful or Simply Evasive?
Is he referring to the harassment victim or “Donna” from the text? Given that “Donna” is Wells' wife according to public records, it raises eyebrows and serious doubts he'd be referring to his own wife. Wells claims he’s unaware of any sexual harassment victim.
But in an open meeting on July 12, Mike Shull directly tied Morelli's resignation to a sexual harassment claim. Who was there? Mr. Wells, according to the county meeting minutes.
If that wasn't odd enough, Breaking Through News has confirmed that it was Butch Wells who discovered the sexual harassment issue, interviewed the victims, and raised the issue with the remainder of the Board. According to our source, Wells negotiated Morelli's resignation, an assertion seemingly backed up in the text message, ie: "you made the right choice", "don't look back".
Despite multiple inquiries, Wells dodged questions about Morelli's alleged victim or the woman he expressed disdain for. Is it the victim or his wife? Readers, because Supervisor Wells won't say, it's up to you decide.
Wells responded to my emails but would not substantively address any of my questions about the text messages. He suggested we meet instead of email, an invitation I immediately accepted. After waiting some time, Mr. Wells told me he would not be able to meet until sometime next week. While in-person discussions can be valuable, why avoid a clear, written response if such a response clears you? This reporter, while always preferring face-to-face interactions, notes that Wells won’t be available for a chat until next week. I am inviting Mr. Wells to participate in a roundtable discussion about this issue, which we will stream live. Let's hope his penchant for face-to-face meetings includes all of your faces, too.
The Evasive Dance of Mr. Wells
Despite repeated attempts, Mr. Wells remained elusive. When asked about the texts and the "despised" woman, Wells casually said, "Good luck with your story!!", all via his iPhone. Such nonchalance, especially amid serious allegations, is baffling.
On questioning Morelli's resignation, Wells sidestepped and offered a meeting next week. Yet, why can't a straightforward question get a straightforward answer?
Continued attempts to seek clarity met with silence. An email to Wells read, "This is a simple question. Respectfully, the people elected you; you owe them transparency." As of now, a response is yet to come.
It is worth noting I gave Mr. Wells until 4:45 to respond, after he suggested a meeting, then said he couldn't meet until next week. I have continued to remain eager to tell Mr. Well's side of the story, and hopefully he will agree to talk with me soon. In the meantime, if you are represented by Mr. Wells, maybe you should ask him.
Words Speak Louder
It’s crucial to remember a victim (it appears at least one) is at the heart of these allegations, confirmed by the Board Chair on July 12, 2023. In these texts, a sitting Board member seems to ridicule a sexual harassment victim alongside the accused former supervisor. Sympathies to this woman (or women) and a pause to consider how much deeper Augusta County’s scandals can plunge.
To the victim, or any person who feels they were victimized in this case, if you want to tell your story, reach out us by email: email@example.com.
The story unfolds, and questions grow. The old saying goes, "It's not what you say; it's how you say it." Mr. Wells may be offering a lesson on the latter.