2-head-barrick-thumbMuch as been made by Charlottesville Mayor Dave Norris and his downtown cronies regarding a commitment to open and transparent government—but actions speak louder than words and the road to City Hall transparency is paved with good intentions.

Recently local media reported that Charlottesville had hired a lobbyist to defeat Del. Rob Bell’s proposed state budget amendment (which would adjust the composite index to account for the region’s Revenue Sharing Agreement). These media accounts were not substantiated with details on the lobbyist’s identity or cost to the city.

In an effort to obtain definitive answers, an email inquiry was sent to Ric Barrick, the city’s official spokesperson:

From: Rob Schilling
Sent: Thursday, January 28, 2010 11:01 AM
To: Barrick, Ric
<BARRICK@charlottesville.org>
Cc: Brown, Craig
Subject: Lobbyist

Hi Ric,

A story in today’s+Daily Progress references a lobbyist having been hired by+Charlottesville “to argue against slashing the city’s school funding in favor of+Albemarle County.”

Can you please tell me the name of the lobbyist and lobby firm, if applicable, and the specific financial arrangement (i.e. a copy of the contract or agreement with the lobbyist or firm)?

In his response, Barrick denied specific knowledge of the contract, the lobbyist, or the cost, and instead he suggested contacting Charlottesville City Schools for information:

From: “Barrick, Ric” <BARRICK@charlottesville.org>
Date: January 28, 2010 11:46:20 AM EST
To:
“Rob Schilling”
Cc: “Brown, Craig”
Subject: RE: Lobbyist

Rob

The City does not have a contract with a lobbyist on this issue. +I understand that the City School system may have a relationship with someone and you are welcome to check with them.

On January 29, 2010 Charlottesville City Schools Director of Finance, Ed Gillaspie, rejoined with direct contradiction to Barrick’s SchultzianI know nothing” contention: “There is a commitment by the City to pay half the costs associated with this effort.”

That same day, Barrick was presented with Gillaspie’s averment and again was asked about the City’s involvement in hiring the lobbyist:

From: Rob Schilling
Date:
January 29, 2010 02:40:35 PM EST
To:
“Barrick, Ric” <BARRICK@charlottesville.org>
Cc: Craig Brown
Subject: Re: Lobbyist

Hi Ric,

I received the requested contract document from the CSS. They mentioned that the City has agreed to pay half of the expense:

“There is a commitment by the City to pay half the costs associated with this effort.”

Can you please tell me:

  1. When this decision for the City to pay half of the costs was made
  2. Who made the commitment on behalf of the City
  3. Where the money will come from to fund the City’s share

Barrick did not reply, so the same email was sent again on February 1, 2010.

On February 5, 2010, Barrick finally responded, albeit cryptically and with no attribution as to who had answered the questions:

Q. When this decision for the City to pay half of the costs was made
A. At a closed door session with City Council and School Board at their January Luncheon

Q. Who made the commitment on behalf of the City
A. Mayor Norris

Q. Where the money will come from to fund the City’s share
A. Council Reserve Fund

So, in comparing Barrick’s original email denial with his revised affirmative response, it appears a City that has promoted “open and transparent” government, employs a spokesman that has either:

  1. Attempted to intentionally deceive by withholding requested information, or
  2. Failed to conduct due diligence in the performance of his duties, or
  3. Been given false information by another member of City government

Giving Barrick the benefit of the doubt, that perhaps he fell victim to intra-governmental deception, an additional request was made in order to ascertain the source of the information provided:

From: Rob Schilling
Date: February 5, 2010 09:43:35 AM EST
To:
“Barrick, Ric” <BARRICK@charlottesville.org>
Cc: “Brown, Craig
Subject: Re: Lobbyist– Resending in case you did not receive original transmission…

Hi Ric,

In all future queries, when you reply to questions will you please cite the source of the information?

In this instance, who provided the answers?

Six days later, Barrick adamantly refused to attribute the source of the City’s assertions.

Based on a review of the contract (linked below) as received from Gillaspie, it turns out that the City is responsible for paying half of lobbyist Troutman Sanders’ $17,500 fee, plus 50% of accrued legal services (billed at $380 per hour), plus reimbursement of miscellaneous “costs.”

The City’s unannounced $8750 (at minimum) expenditure in fearsome financial times is problematic but is not the paramount quandary—more disconcerting is the extent to which Charlottesville City government has undertaken to obfuscate and dissimulate what should be readily available and public information.

In attempting to conceal a relatively minor expenditure, Charlottesville City government has revealed a more perilous predicament: unattributed information derived from the City’s spokesman is unreliable at best and in this case appears to be downright deceptive.

“We support an open and transparent government and will empower all members of the community to be active participants in shaping the decisions that affect us all.” — Charlottesville City Council 2020 Vision Statement

See the lobbyist contract:

[ipaper id=26752389]

5 COMMENTS

  1. Was the luncheon a public meeting? If not, someone needs to determine if this decision is permitted to be made in “executive session.”

  2. The luncheon meetings with the school board are considered “Special Meetings” by the city and this Council has discovered that they can call these kinds of meetings with a five hour notice TO EACH OTHER. Jim, the luncheon meetings are open to the public; however, they went into executive session to discuss legal matters and thus could kick the public out. I am sure that Mayor Norris will continue to have these secret meetings while he’s in charge. After all, who’s there to complain?
    Yes, we have an open and transparent government until there’s something that Mayor Norris wishes to stay behind closed doors and obfuscate. Yep, there’s more to come, folks.

  3. Do they serve pizza at these luncheon
    meetings? This would fulfill a campaign
    promise of Kristin Szakos. She has
    become the democratic socialist equivalent
    of Marie Antionette: “Let them eat pizza”.
    Cake is too aristocratic for this group.

  4. Gary,

    You’re right. We need to start a pizza watch and make wagers on which styles will be offered. My bet is that Supreme will be advertised but only cheese will be provided.

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