Fraud, misfeasance and cover-up: Special Prosecutor investigates Charlottesville spokesman Barrick

| March 21, 2012 | 14 Comments

The City of Charlottesville spends a lot of money—well north of $140 million in its most recent annual budget. The vast majority of the city’s revenues come in the form of taxes paid by its citizens who have little choice but to remit excessively the hard-earned fruits of their labor to a profligate-spending government.

The relationship between city officials and its taxpayers is predicated on trust. The public has the right to expect that government employees are properly trained and competently are discharging their duties. The public has the right to expect that government employees are pursuing the best course of action in regard to spending taxpayer monies. At the very least, the public has the right to expect that law and procedures—enacted to protect the taxpayer from fraud—are being followed veraciously concerning any outlay of public funds by a government entity.

A series of emails obtained by the Schilling Show in the course of a one-year investigation, unfortunately has revealed a disturbing breach of the public trust from inside Charlottesville City Hall. In the process of procuring goods and services for the citizens of Charlottesville, city spokesman and Charlottesville’s Director of Communications, Ric Barrick has violated public records provisions of state code, plainly worded contractual policies, and state procurement guidelines by:

  1. Secretly negotiating with a personally favored higher bidding vendor after the official bidding period was closed; and,
  2. Working to manipulate that vendor’s bid downward so that it would appear less expensive than the actual lowest bid—at a cost of thousands of dollars to taxpayers; and,
  3. Willfully destroying evidence that possibly would implicate him in the above actions.

Getting the Goods

While much of what Charlottesville city government spends is for personnel and accompanying benefits, a significant portion of its yearly expenditures is accounted for in the purchase of goods and services—a process generally governed by the Virginia Public Procurement Act, of which § 2.2-4300 C states:

To the end that public bodies in the Commonwealth obtain high quality goods and services at reasonable cost, that all procurement procedures be conducted in a fair and impartial manner with avoidance of any impropriety or appearance of impropriety, that all qualified vendors have access to public business and that no offeror be arbitrarily or capriciously excluded, it is the intent of the General Assembly that competition be sought to the maximum feasible degree, that procurement procedures involve openness and administrative efficiency,  that individual public bodies enjoy broad flexibility in fashioning details of such competition,  that the rules governing contract awards be made clear in advance of the competition, that specifications reflect the procurement needs of the purchasing body rather than being drawn to favor a particular vendor, and that the purchaser and vendor freely exchange information concerning what is sought to be procured and what is offered. [emphasis added]

In early 2010 the Charlottesville City Communications Department indicated a desire, through email correspondence, to purchase an automated “channel in a box” solution that would create a turnkey local news, weather, and information solution for Charlottesville’s public access TV10.

Weather Metrics, a Kansas-based weather technology business, sought to provide this service; consequently, Eric Levy, the company’s Broadcast Products Manager submitted a proposal to the city on January 13, 2010. Levy’s offer was to provide the requested “channel in a box” solution at a cost of $26,000 for a 36-month contract.

Ric Barrick and the Request for Quotations (RFQ)

After months of procrastinating and occasional back and forth emails with Levy, on November 12, 2010 spokesman Barrick apologetically notified Mr. Levy that Weather Metrics would have to submit a Request for Quotation (RFQ) if Levy’s company wanted to compete for the contract.

From: Barrick, Ric [mailto:BARRICK@charlottesville.org]
Sent: Friday, November 12, 2010 2:30 PM
To: Eric Levy
Subject: Charlottesville Bid

Eric

Sorry that this took so long and that we are a government entity that has to go through this. Hope that you all can take the time to fill out our RFP????????. [sic, should be RFQ]

Ric

On November 15, 2010, following internal discussion with Charlottesville’s Procurement & Risk Management Services Manager Jennifer Luchard, Barrick issued the proposed RFQ on behalf of the city of Charlottesville. Five possible vendors were asked to provide:

“a turn-key solution to our government access channel’s broadcast interface to provide news and weather information either provided over the internet or entered manually through a web-based product.”[sic]

According to the RFQ, the city’s acceptance of proposals was time limited:

Request for Quotations Will Be Received Until 11/22/10 at 5:00 PM local prevailing time For Furnishing The Goods/Services Described Herein.

Item H of the city’s RFQ promised to award the contract to the lowest bidder:

AWARD OF CONTRACT: Awards shall be based on determination of the lowest responsive and responsible bidder. No contract may be awarded to a bidder who is determined by the Purchasing Agent to be non-responsible

Out of five approached vendors, only two responded to the City’s request, Weather Metrics (Ric Barrick’s self-professed preferred vendor) and Weather Central.

The initial submitted bids offered the following terms of service:

Vendor Date Submitted Service Term Total Cost
Weather Metrics 11/18/2010 36 months $26,000
Weather Central* 11/19/2010 36 months $18,490

*lowest bidder

[Note: The original Weather Metrics bid electronically submitted to Barrick on November 18, 2010 was named: City of Charlottesville 24 x 7 pricing Barrick 11-18-10.pdf)

Dissatisfied with the ultimate result of the RFQ (i.e. Weather Central’s lower bid), and well after the bidding closing date of 11/22/2010, Barrick emailed Jennifer Luchard on December 8, 2010 to inquire if there was any wiggle-room in the awarding process:

From: Barrick, Ric
Sent: Wednesday, December 08, 2010 3:56 PM
To: Luchard, Jennifer
Subject: RFPs

Jennifer

Does the process we went through for the 24/7 weather system RFP require us to take the lowest bid?  I’m trying to bargain us down with the vendor that we want but we are still a few thousand apart.  Not sure what, if any, flexibility that we have.  I’m only inclined to buy from one vendor because the product is so superior and customizable.  Thanks for your help with this.

Ric

Ric Barrick
Director of Communications?City of Charlottesville
“The Best Place to Live in America”

434-970-3129 main
434-989-9373 cell
434-970-3890 facsimile

Informed of Barrick’s express desire to engage in RFQ post-closing-date collusion with an as-of-yet unawarded vendor, Luchard responded promptly that the contract needed to go to the lowest bidder but also that she and Barrick should further “discuss” the situation by phone:

From: Luchard, Jennifer
Sent: Wednesday, December 08, 2010 4:45 PM
To: Barrick, Ric
Subject: RE: RFPs

I believe that was a RFQ (Request for Quotation).  We discussed going the RFP route so we could consider factors other than price and negotiate, but I believe you felt like the requirements and qualifications could be described well enough to go with the low bid instead.  Did you use the draft I sent you on Nov. 10th?  If so, the award clause says award is to the lowest responsive/responsible bidder.  I’m around most of the day tomorrow.  Sounds like we need to discuss.  I’m @ ext. 3869.

Thanks,

Jennifer

The Negotiation

Despite Luchard’s clear written admonition that Barrick needed to select the lowest bidding vendor (Weather Central), despite Weather Metric’s obviously significantly higher bid, and despite the fact that the RFQ had closed weeks prior, Ric Barrick began an apparent circumvention of clearly stated, contractual procurement procedures in order to steer the contract award to his preferred vendor, Weather Metrics, cost considerations be damned.

On December 9, 2010—16 days after the RFQ closing date—Barrick sent an email to Weather Metrics’ Eric Levy, attempting to further negotiate the terms of Mr. Levy’s November 18 RFQ bid. (When contacted by the Schilling Show, a management source for Weather Central confirmed that his company was not given a similar opportunity to participate in post-RFQ closing re-bidding.)

In his correspondence to Levy, Barrick proffered that Weather Metrics slash the term of their initial $26,000 bid—from 36 months to 18 months—so that it would superficially appear less expensive than Weather Central’s $18,490 quotation (which was for 36 months). Conveniently, Barrick included a copy of low-bidder Weather Central’s RFQ bid as well as a suggestion that Weather Metrics reduce their price to $17,000, which would then allow Barrick to designate their bid as the “lowest” received. Not content to merely manipulate Weather Metric’s initial bidding price— thereby resulting in a substantially higher long-term taxpayer cost—Barrick seemingly goes on to promise vendor Weather Metrics the city’s continued “generosity” if they help to perpetuate the “low-bid” fiction:

From: Barrick, Ric [mailto:BARRICK@charlottesville.org]
Sent: Thursday, December 09, 2010 2:28 PM
To: Eric Levy?Subject: FW: RFPs

Eric

So here’s the deal.  We need to go with the lowest cost bid for the entirety of the project.  We much prefer Wx Metrics but there is currently a large difference.  The lowest bid is 18,490 but that is largely because they are only charging a $250 Data subscription fee for 30 months.  I know that you all can’t reduce the $500 monthly fee but I am wondering if you all would be willing to have the terms be only 18 months which would reduce the cost of the RFQ to $17,000.  I know that is a big difference but perhaps we could find a way to convince you all that we would continue with Wx Metrics beyond that.  Attached is the lowest bid for your reference as it is public information.  Thanks in advance for your help.

Ric

Ric Barrick
Director of Communications?City of Charlottesville
“The Best Place to Live in America”

434-970-3129 main
434-989-9373 cell
434-970-3890 facsimile

Unsurprisingly, Barrick’s email was met with an enthusiastic reply from Weather Metrics’ Eric Levy:

From: Eric Levy [mailto:elevy@weathermetrics.com]
Sent: Thursday, December 09, 2010 07:12 PM
To: Barrick, Ric
Subject: RE: RFPs

Ric,

Thanks for your email!  I discussed with our management team and we can make it work for you for 18 months…  I am confident that you will be so happy that after 18 months you will want to continue using the system.  I also think you will get a ton more value with our system out of showing local City of Charlottesville information on the channel (ie community programming, crawl, events calendar, etc.)  It’s going to be awesome!

I will give you a call in the morning to figure out how we should proceed.  You can reach me at 913.378.1209 if I don’t reach you first.

We are looking very forward to helping you with this.  Thank you for the opportunity to work with you and the City of Charlottesville!?Eric

 

Eric Levy Director of Broadcast Products
Weather Metrics
Direct:   913.378.1209
Cell:       913.271.1626
Office:   913.438.7666
11100 W. 91st Street / Overland Park, KS / 66214

http://www.weathermetrics.com/

The Manipulation

Subsequent to his December 9 response to Ric Barrick, Eric Levy submitted another bid to Barrick, this time, the file was named: City of Charlottesville 24 x 7 pricing Barrick 11-18-10a.pdf [note: this file name is identical to that of the Weather Metrics bid submitted on November 18 except that “a” is appended to the end of the original file name]

Levy’s revised “a” RFQ came in at exactly $17,000—the number Barrick “suggested” to Levy in his December 9 email, as a bid-winning total. Troublingly, Levy’s revised RFQ (City of Charlottesville 24 x 7 pricing Barrick 11-18-10a.pdf) was not date corrected, as the document is marked November 18, 2010 although it apparently was submitted on or about December 10, 2010. In other words, Weather Metrics’ new bid was backdated 21 days prior to its actual submission date to Ric Barrick. Levy’s revised bid now appeared to fall neatly within the original RFP closing date of November 22, 2010.

The final bid resulting from Barrick and Levy’s post-closing-date collusion reflected a lower total price from Weather Metrics than from Weather Central; however, it also is patently obvious that the revised bid actually represented far less value to the city taxpayer due to the 18-month discrepancy in service terms, and because of Weather Metrics’ higher monthly fees:

Vendor Date Submitted Service Term Total Cost Monthly Cost
Weather Central 11/19/10 36 months $18,490 $513.61
Weather Metrics 12/9/10* 18 months $17,000 $944.44

*bid received 21 days after the RFQ closing date and backdated to 11/18/10

Item I of the city’s RFQ clearly states that modifications of bids are not acceptable after the closing date, which was November 22, 2010 in this instance:

BID ACCEPTANCE PERIOD: Each bid submitted must be and remain valid for a period of at least thirty (30) days from bid opening. Erroneous quotations may be reclaimed or superseded any time prior to closing time; Modification of or corrections to quotations are not acceptable after the closing time specified. Any new quotation must be marked as in Section A with the additional notation “Supersedes all previous submissions.” No bidder may withdraw his quotation from consideration after closing time due to a mistake, except as permitted by Virginia Code § 2.2-4330. [emphasis added]

Virginia Code § 2.2-4318 seems to confirm that the lowest bid shall be accepted without further negotiation; and that post-deadline negotiation is possible exclusively with the lowest bidder, and then, only under certain restrictive conditions:

§ 2.2-4318. Negotiation with lowest responsible bidder.

Unless canceled or rejected, a responsive bid from the lowest responsible bidder shall be accepted as submitted, except that if the bid from the lowest responsible bidder exceeds available funds, the public body may negotiate with the apparent low bidder to obtain a contract price within available funds. However, the negotiation may be undertaken only under conditions and procedures described in writing and approved by the public body prior to issuance of the Invitation to Bid and summarized therein. [emphasis added]

Further, Barrick’s post-deadline negotiations with Weather Metrics’ representative Eric Levy appear to have been a violation of the city’s own terms and conditions as set forth in Section J of the RFQ:

CLARIFICATION OF TERMS: The City will assume no responsibility for oral instructions, suggestion or interpretation. Any question regarding the bid documents and/or specifications shall be directed to the Purchasing Division and any material change will be submitted to all bidders through issuance of an addendum. Any questions related to this RFQ MUST be submitted to Rick [sic] Barrick no fewer than five (5) work days prior to the quotation due date specified. [emphasis original] Questions should be in writing and electronic transmission is preferred. Questions submitted beyond the time specified above may be left unanswered if sufficient time does not allow a response to all prospective bidders without causing an unacceptable delay in the process. Any contact with any City representative, other than that outlined within this solicitation, concerning this RFQ is prohibited. Such unauthorized contact may disqualify your firm from this procurement. [emphasis added]

On December 10, 2010 Barrick benignly submitted to Luchard, Weather Metrics’ revised, backdated bid along with Weather Central’s original bid, declaring Weather Metrics’ submission as the lowest, and thus the contract awardee:

From: “Barrick, Ric” <BARRICK@charlottesville.org>
Date: December 10, 2010 01:37:41 PM EST
To: “Luchard, Jennifer” <luchard@charlottesville.org>

Subject: Our Bids

Attached are the only two bids that we got in for the project after an outreach to five.  The lowest bid from WX metrics and I would like to go with them.  Is there anything else I need to do on my side?  Thanks.

Ric

The Cover-Up

 

While government-insider manipulation of the public procurement process is disturbing enough in its own right, government cover-up of official law-bending arguably is worse. Much of the damning documentation obtained for this investigation was received during a December 2010 non-specific Virginia Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request to view a week of Ric Barrick’s email. This FOIA was submitted shortly after Barrick punitively removed The Schilling Show and its host Rob Schilling from his official Charlottesville City email distribution lists, under which Barrick disseminates media releases and other city news.

Many months of rumination over and analysis of the original documents obtained from Barrick led to a second FOIA. This time, the request was issued in order to obtain supporting documents relating specifically to the Weather Metrics contract with Charlottesville City. The Schilling Show’s December 31, 2011 FOIA sought:

An electronic copy of all Weather Metrics RFQs received by the city and any correspondence or document sent to or received from Weather Metrics and/or Eric Levy (of Weather Metrics), by any city employee or elected official. Effective dates of this request are from January 1, 2010 through and including January 31, 2011.

On January 9, 2012 and on behalf of Charlottesville City, Ric Barrick responded to The Schilling Show’s December 31, 2011 FOIA with electronic documentation of correspondence between Eric Levy and several city employees.

Missing from Barrick’s FOIA response were several incriminating communications (unbeknownst to Barrick these missives already were in possession of The Schilling Show) referencing Barrick and Levy’s apparent conspiracy to manipulate the RFQ process. Notably:

  1. Barrick’s December 8, 2010 email to Jennifer Luchard in which Barrick asks Luchard if he is bound to accept the lowest RFQ bid was not included in Barrick’s FOIA response.
  2. Barrick’s December 9, 2010 email to Weather Metrics’ Eric Levy in which Barrick suggests that Levy lower the number of months in his RFQ in order to appear as the lowest bidder was not included in Barrick’s FOIA response.
  3. Levy’s December 9, 2011 email response to Barrick in which Levy agrees to adjust the RFQ terms as Barrick had suggested was not included in Barrick’s FOIA response.

Also missing was a key document—one that fell squarely in the parameters of the December 31 FOIA: City of Charlottesville 24 x 7 pricing Barrick 11-18-10.pdf

 

This was the original Weather Metrics RFQ response in the amount of $26,000, significantly higher than the actual lowest bid of $18,490, as submitted by Weather Central.

The existence of this specific document was suspected by inference in reviewing Barrick, Levy and Luchard’s correspondences. But it was shown as an attachment (although it was not attached or included in the January 9 FOIA response) to one of the emails Barrick did provide in response to the December 31, 2011 FOIA:

From: Eric Levy [mailto:elevy@weathermetrics.com]
Sent: Thursday, November 18, 2010 3:14 PM
To: Barrick, Ric
Subject: RE: Charlottesville Bid
Attachments: City of Charlottesville 24×7 Pricing Barrick 11-18-10.pdf

Ric,

Per your request, you will find the proposed solution in response to your RFP. The solution includes our 24×7 Channel.Net system, which would enhance your local information channel with additional news and weather information. It will help you automate the process on your local channel and we will help you maintain the channel reducing your work-load.

We are looking forward to helping you with this project! Please give me a call with any questions at 913.378.1209.

Thanks!

Eric

Noting that the document was referenced but not included in Barrick’s FOIA response, a specific request was issued for Weather Metrics original November 18 RFQ response, also known as: City of Charlottesville 24×7 Pricing Barrick 11-18-10.pdf

After several email go-rounds with the City Attorney’s office, including their provision of the wrong document and a claim that the document “could not be located,” it finally was relinquished on January 25, 2012. It’s $26,000 bottom line provided confirming evidence that clearly stated, legal RFQ process requirements had been violated by Ric Barrick—to the advantage of Eric Levy and Weather Metrics and to the detriment of Charlottesville taxpayers who now must pay higher costs for the purchased services.

Attempts to clarify the legal parameters of the RFQ process with city procurement’s Jennifer Luchard—who was at least peripherally aware of Barrick’s attempted manipulations—were met with stony obfuscation. When asked if it was legal to negotiate any terms of the vendor’s submitted RFQ after the RFQ “response date” had passed, Luchard responded with nearly incomprehensible and thoroughly self-defensive legalese:

From: “Luchard, Jennifer” <luchard@charlottesville.org>
Date: January 31, 2012 01:22:08 PM EST
To: ‘Rob Schilling’

Subject: RE: 1/28/2012 follow up question Re: Weather Metrics / Weather Central Contracts

Rob,

A responsive bid from the lowest responsive and responsible bidder is usually accepted as submitted, without negotiation unless the bid exceeds available funding.  If the City includes a negotiation clause in the solicitation, the City may negotiate with the apparent low bidder to obtain a contract price within available funds.  This negotiation clause was not included in this Request for Quotation.

Terms and conditions of the contract form may be negotiated.  The City requires bidders to include with their bids all written agreements, contracts, service agreements, account applications, forms and other documents, of any nature, that the contractor would require the City to sign in connection with any contract resulting from the procurement transaction, or the performance thereof by the contractor.  The City prefers to use its own contract form, and the standard contract form for most purchases less than $100,000 is a purchase order.  For this particular purchase, the contractor required signature on his contract form.

Best Regards,

Jennifer Luchard

Conclusion

 

Upon final examination of information discovered in the December 2010 and January 2011 FOIA inquires, The Schilling Show requested a meeting with City Manager, Maurice Jones, and City Attorney, Craig Brown, in order to discuss anomalies uncovered during The Schilling Show’s investigation. At the February 21, 2012 meeting both Jones and Brown expressed concern over the presented evidence.

Concurrently a separate meeting was requested with the Charlottesville Commonwealth’s Attorney’s office. Upon discussion with that department, the case was referred to a Special Prosecutor, Orange County Commonwealth’s Attorney, Diana H. Wheeler—under order of Judge Edward L. Hogshire—and a formal investigation commenced.

On March 16, 2012, after interviews with Ric Barrick, Eric Levy, Jennifer Luchard, Maurice Jones and Craig Brown, Ms. Wheeler concluded her investigation with a letter to Judge Hogshire. In her correspondence, the Special Prosecutor stated that she was declining to prosecute Barrick at this time, noting insufficient evidence to prove criminal intent in Barrick’s actions. However, Wheeler went on to cite specific, unresolved concerns regarding Barrick’s and Luchard’s conduct including: “questionable actions,” “less than satisfactory answers to certain questions asked,” and “some apparent violations of rules and policies.”

In consideration of the ascertainable facts, Wheeler’s letter focused specifically on Barrick’s apparent incompetence and inability to comprehend his assigned procurement duties:

I find that there is credible evidence, when viewed as a whole, to lead one to believe that Mr. Barrick:

  1. did not adequately understand the difference between and RFP and an RFQ,
  2. did not adequately understand the rules and procedures for an RFQ,
  3. did not read the entire RFQ he had posted, and
  4. did not realize that the bid period was over when he accepted a modified bid from the original bidder.

How both Barrick and Luchard could possibly have been unaware that the bidding period was over defies logic. Luchard knew that Barrick was negotiating with the vendor because he informed her of such. As an overseer of procurement contracts, she should have known that post-bid negotiation as described by Barrick was forbidden, regardless of the bidding period status. But also, Luchard and Barrick discussed that only two bids (out of five prospective bidders) had been received and Barrick submitted those two bids exclusively, to Luchard. According to their internal correspondence and subsequent actions, Luchard and Barrick apparently agreed that as of December 10, 2010 the bidding period was closed and that no more bids could be received. That decision could only have been reached by awareness of the RFQ closing date (November 18, 2010), a situation contrary to the assumptions of Special Prosecutor Wheeler’s findings.

Disturbingly, Wheeler’s letter also notes that Ric Barrick intentionally and willfully deleted from his computer the missing FOIA’d emails referenced above, for fear that the information contained within may cast him in an unfavorable light:

…In the months following, as Mr. Schilling was seeking additional information on the Weather Metrics contract, probably during or after July 2011, Mr. Barrick found emails that made him realize that since he had allowed Weather Metrics to come down from their original bid, he should have given Weather Central the same opportunity, but he did not. He thought that this did not “look good” because he was not fair to Weather Central. He deleted some emails at that point.

According to the Special Prosecutor, Barrick was unable to prove when the emails were deleted, whether in July of 2011, upon receipt of The Schilling Show’s December 31, 2011 FOIA, or at some other time.

In a post-decision meeting with The Schilling Show and investigators, Ms. Wheeler stated that she was unaware of any statute that would require Barrick and the city to maintain email records regarding city business, and thus Barrick’s deletion and attempted cover-up of his dealings was not pursued legally.

However, the Virginia Public Records Act does have legal requirements for records retention among state agencies and localities, as follows:

010185: Purchasing Records – Bid and Bid Proposal Records
This series is used to document the bidding process for items/equipment that are being purchased by the locality. The series consists of the request for bids, bid specifications, and related items.
Retention: Retain 3 year(s) after end of state fiscal year [emphasis added]
Disposition: Non-confidential Destruction

 

A high-ranking Charlottesville police investigator assigned to the case said he was unaware of any prohibition under city policy regarding the deletion of city email records and did not believe that any backup of deleted email records was maintained by the city. Additionally, he stated his understanding that any email residing on individual city employee computers, once deleted, was gone from the server, as well, with no record of it ever having existed.

The deletion of sensitive emails, the financial defrauding of Charlottesville taxpayers, and the collusion to manipulate the bidding process to the detriment of other bidders is highly problematic procedurally, legally, and ethically. And many questions remain:

  • If Ric Barrick, a $95,000 per-year government employee, does not understand public procurement laws and admits to “not read(ing) the entire RFQ he had posted,” who has authorized him and why is he authorized to purchase goods and services on behalf of the city?
  • If Jennifer Luchard is unable to adequately administer procurement purchases taking place under her supervision, is she competent to maintain her current position?
  • If the City of Charlottesville allows critically important emails to be deleted and does not maintain backups of such correspondence, are they in compliance with Virginia law and is the pubic interest being served?
  • Will Barrick personally reimburse taxpayers for the additional costs they will incur as a result of his improper actions?
  • Will Barrick and Luchard’s misfeasance and procedural violations be tolerated, or will substantive personnel and procedural changes be implemented inside Charlottesville City Hall?
  • And in the light of the gross incompetence and willful manipulation now exposed at the highest levels of Charlottesville City Government, is current city elected and appointed management capable of adequately and proficiently overseeing the execution of city business and guaranteeing ethical conduct from its employees?

Even with multiple legal bulwarks in place:

  • the Virginia Public Procurement Act’s checks and balances on process abuse
  • the protective language included in the city’s RFQ regarding procedural improprieties and post-closing-date communications and negotiations
  • the Virginia Public Records Act’s prohibition against destroying documents critical to the public interest
  • fallback information-access safeguards offered by the Virginia Freedom of Information Act

the established citizen-taxpayer protection systems failed catastrophically in this instance. While the legal system presently has chosen not to pursue a case against the transgressors, the court of public opinion may be a more powerful and effective adjudicator. The reputation of Charlottesville city government and the ability to restore public trust in Charlottesville City Hall hangs in the balance.

 

Timeline of Events

January 13, 2010: Eric Levy of Weather Metrics submits proposal to Joe Rice (Ric Barrick co-worker) offering 36 months of service for $500/month licensing and capital cost of $8000, total cost is $26,000.

 

November 12, 2010: Ric Barrick alerts Weather Metrics (Eric Levy, preferred vendor) that he will have to fill out RFP (actually an RFQ) in order to compete for the business.

November 15, 2010: RFQ issued by Charlottesville City

November 18, 2010: Eric Levy submits response to RFQ, total price is $26,000 for 36 months. (document: City of Charlottesville 24 x 7 pricing Barrick 11-18-10.pdf)

November 19, 2010: Non-preferred vendor, Weather Central responds to RFQ, total price is $18,490 for 36 months

November 22, 2010: RFQ “response date” ends

December 8, 2010: Barrick alerts Jennifer Luchard (Charlottesville City Procurement & Risk Manager) that he is trying to “bargain down” the “vendor we want” but “still a few thousand apart.” Asks if we have “any flexibility.”

December 8, 2010: Luchard responds to Barrick that since it was an RFQ, “the award clause says award is to the lowest responsive/responsible bidder.” Says, “we need to discuss.”

December 9, 2010: Barrick writes to Levy, disclosing the lower bid of the other vendor and why the price is lower (lower monthly fee $250 vs. $500). Suggests that Levy lower his term to 18 months in order to reduce the total cost to $17,000, with a promise that the city would continue to use Levy beyond the 18 month agreement. Barrick attaches a copy of the competing bid, claiming that it is “public information.”

December 9, 2010: Levy responds affirmatively to Barrick that his management team can “make it work for 18 months.” Requests a phone conversation the following morning to “figure out how we should proceed.”

December 10, 2010: Levy submits an alternate bid (document: City of Charlottesville 24 x 7 pricing Barrick 11-18-10a.pdf) that shows a term of 18 months and a total price of $17,000 as suggested by Barrick on December 9. Submitted new document backdated to November 18, 2010 which fits within RFQ closing date of 11/22/2010.

December 10, 2010: Barrick submits revised Weather Metrics bid ($17,000) and original Weather Central bid ($18,490) to Luchard citing the receipt of only two bids. Claims that Weather Metrics bid is the lowest even though that company’s service terms are for only 18 months as compared to Weather Central’s 36 month terms.

December 22, 2010: Charlottesville issues $17,000 purchase order to Weather Metrics.

February 15, 2011: Eric Levy emails finalized copy of signed contract to Michelle Glass, Charlottesville City.

January 9, 2012: Barrick omits several key documents from December 31, 2011 FOIA response (official email documents he deleted at an undetermined time in order to hide evidence he believed “did not look good”).

About the Author:

Rob Schilling is founder of The Schilling Show Blog and News; host of WINA's The Schilling Show, heard weekdays from noon to 2 PM; husband; father; and community watchdog.
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14 Comments on "Fraud, misfeasance and cover-up: Special Prosecutor investigates Charlottesville spokesman Barrick"

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  1. Here's what goes on in Charlottesville City Hall when no one's minding the store: http://wp.me/p1x2fK-1Gl.

  2. Skip Degan says:

    and it doesn't just happen in Charlottesville……………..it is a national tragedy

  3. Willie Reeves says:

    Is this why he resigned from his "stressful job"…

  4. Paul says:

    It is ashame that the way city handle the money it’s collects from it citizen. I retired from state and it drilled into our head how the procurement procedures work. It is drilled into our head how long we are suppose to keep records. The Virginia State Library put a wonderful document on how we are suppose to do it. Plus there is no excuse for a department head to be making 95,000 dollars a yrs failure not to know this. Mr. Barrick will be resigning from his position, due to stress. Odd are he is going to get a bonus, and couple of other going away presents for being the fall guy and saving the city.
    He should have been given 2 weeks on street no pay and let go.
    Instead he gets to walk away with a nice departing package.
    Way to go Mr. Jones….

  5. Hank Martin says:

    Tis so true. You are a light in the darkness. What happens when you illuminate roaches at night? They run away.

  6. The_BlueSpade says:

    “Concurrently a separate meeting was requested with the Charlottesville Commonwealth’s Attorney’s office. Upon discussion with that department, the case was referred to a Special Prosecutor, Orange County Commonwealth’s Attorney, Diana H. Wheeler—under order of Judge Edward L. Hogshire—and a formal investigation commenced.”

    Doesn’t look like the prosecutor to whom this case was defered (as opposed to referred) was special enough. I am profoundly astonished a prosecutor from another regional locality outside the one beisdes Charlamarle is center of wasn’t considered.

  7. Hola says:

    Rob, this is very sad. What in the world is going on in City Hall?

    I guess they will hire another Democrat to fill his shoes?

  8. Liberalace says:

    This is amazing. A city department director, regardless of salary, absolutely knows that you cannot mess with the procurement process after the bids close. This does not illustrate any corruption in Chville government; it highlights what we in the private sector know: government by and large attracts incompetents who become so ingrained with their culture that they soon do not even realize their incompetence.
    I kind of feel sorry for Barrick…he is so milquetoast-ish that he even tells the press that he is resigning due to stress. This is a city of 43,000 people, for God’s sake…how stressful can his position be??
    Regardless of what we think, this World Class City is surely a “Third World” Class City.
    R.I.P.: Jaco Pastorius

  9. Lewis Rector says:

    ok…(2) questions…why aren't charges being brought forth…and what the hell does Charlottesville need with a 'Weather Metrics'.

  10. Paul says:

    check out the daily progress. this individual is being keep on as a P-14 and will be earning at least $27.50 / hr. # of hrs to work a week have yet to be determine.
    Where do you sign up for a job like this?

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