In the past week, the small Denver technology firm at the center of the scandal surrounding Hillary Rodham Clinton’s e-mails has received death threats. There have been phone calls from screaming strangers. The company has removed from its Web site biographies of its executives as well as testimonials from some of its customers.
All this because Platte River Networks won a contract in 2013 to provide information technology services to Bill and Hillary Clinton. It included taking possession of the e-mail server the Democratic presidential candidate had used when she was secretary of state.
“We’re normal people. We’re not used to this,” David DeCamillis, Platte River’s vice president, said in the first interview that a company executive has given since it turned over Hillary Clinton’s server to the FBI last week.
DeCamillis said the firm — named Small Business of the Year in 2012 by the Denver Chamber of Commerce — has gone through a sudden and unpleasant crash course in the world of presidential politics.
DeCamillis said that no one at the company had any clue about what might result from accepting the contract. If they had, he said, “we would never have taken it on.”
“No one knew,” he added. “It was an e-mail server, that simple.”
Unlike virtually everything else to do with the Clintons, there is no obvious connection between the Denver company and the former first couple.
Platte River Networks’ top executives have donated no money to political candidates. The company is not a federal contractor, and DeCamillis said it does not typically work for political campaigns. Records show that Platte River did not work for Hillary Clinton’s campaigns. The company was paid $990 in 2005 by the campaign of Rutt Bridges, a Democrat who was briefly a candidate for Colorado governor.
DeCamillis referred most questions about the specifics of the company’s relationship with the Clintons and the actual setup of the server to Andy Boian, a public relations manager brought on last week to help Platte River deal with its newfound fame.
Boian said Bill and Hillary Clinton hired Platte River in June 2013 — four months after Clinton stepped down as secretary of state — after the company submitted a proposal for IT work to the high-powered couple. Boian said he did not know how Platte River learned about the opportunity.
Nick Merrill, a spokesman for Hillary Clinton, declined to comment on questions about the company and its selection.
Jim Zimmerman, who worked as a field engineer at Platte River from 2010 to 2013, said he recalled a staff meeting where company executives announced they had won the Clinton contract. They told employees that it was a “private job” and asked that they keep word of the work quiet.
Zimmerman said the executives did not describe how their Denver company had won the work, but he noted that they seemed pleased.
“Who wouldn’t be?” he said. “We were a small company.”
How Platte River was selected is one of a number of unanswered questions about how Hillary Clinton chose to safeguard records that, it is now clear, included sensitive information.
The intelligence community’s inspector general has said that two of the e-mails contained top-secret material, the highest level of classification, and should not have been stored on a private server. State Department officials have said that hundreds more could contain classified material.
DeCamillis said that the company has undergone various background checks for clients in the past but that he did not think any of its employees held formal government-issued security clearances.
A spokeswoman for an agency within the Defense Department that vets companies for security clearances said her office has not extended one to Platte River Networks.
DeCamillis also said the company has never had a federal government contract. He said the company has about 300 clients and offers full-time services to about 100 of them, 85 percent of which are located within an hour of the company’s Denver office.
He said the company employs a number of security measures to protect the data of its customers, including a firewall and anti-virus software. “We treat every customer with the same level of technical expertise, security and redundancy,” he said.
Platte River representatives have said the company took Clinton’s server from her Chappaqua, N.Y., home in June 2013, transferring it to a secure facility in New Jersey.
Last week, an attorney for the company said the server was “blank” when it was turned over to the FBI. Attorney Barbara Wells also said that at one point, data from the server was “migrated” to another server for the purpose of making the transition to Platte River.
But Boian, the public relations manager, said he could no longer be confident that Wells’s information about the server being blank had been accurate.
He added: “I don’t have any information that the server was wiped. Nor do I have any information to suggest it wasn’t. . . . The information I have for sure is that the server itself, when it migrated from Chappaqua to the data center, it was installed at the data center and left alone.”
Hillary Clinton would not say whether the server had been wiped when she was asked about the issue after a town hall in North Las Vegas on Tuesday. “What, like with a cloth or something?” she said. “I don’t know how it works at all.”
With members of Congress and the FBI probing the security of Clinton’s e-mail system, the company will probably have to answer those kinds of specific questions in coming weeks. Last week, Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.), chairman of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, sent Platte River a letter requesting detailed information about the company’s interactions with the Clintons. He asked for a response by Aug. 25.
Clinton provided the State Department with 30,000 of her e-mails in December. She has said she chose not to keep 31,000 more that she sent and received as secretary of state, deeming them to be entirely personal in nature. It is unclear whether the FBI could recover some of those e-mails from the server to examine whether they were truly personal. It is also unclear whether the FBI will try to do so. Officials have said that the probe is preliminary and that Clinton is not a target of the inquiry.
Platte River was founded in 2002 by two tech workers from Denver who joined forces after their company was bought out. “There was a revolving door of both customers and staff, and they felt like they could do a better job than what their company was doing,” DeCamillis said of company founders Treve Suazo and Brent Allshouse.
He said Platte River has grown steadily since then. Aside from the Chamber of Commerce award, the company was named a runner-up in the IT Services category in this year’s Colorado Business Magazine “Best of Colorado” listing. An editor there said the award was based on reader votes.
In Colorado, the company is being sued by another firm in federal court over an odd mix-up that resulted in the disconnection of nearly 400 phone lines in June 2014.
In the case, which is unrelated to that of the Clintons, some of the lines were redirected to an insurance firm, including the help line of another tech firm. According to court records and the chief executive of that tech firm, its customers included users at the Defense Department and a White House office who for a time were unable to reach them for assistance.
In court, Platte River has denied that it was at fault. DeCamillis referred questions about the lawsuit to Boian, who did not respond to a query about the litigation.
DeCamillis said the company does not blame the Clintons for the current situation. “We would never blame a client,” he said. But he does fear the impact of the scrutiny on clients and on the small company’s employees. “They’re good, hard-working people,” he said. “They don’t need all this. They don’t want all this.”
Tom Hamburger, Karen Tumulty and Alice Crites contributed to this report.