Monticello High School Athletic Director (and Louisa County Board of Supervisors member), Fitzgerald Barnes, apparently is playing fast and loose with Virginia Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests made by The Schilling Show.
In the wake of the Albemarle Truth in Taxation Alliance’s discovery that Barnes and other Albemarle County Athletic Directors had entered into secret, unauthorized “exclusivity agreements” with athletic apparel vendors, Albemarle County School Board members requested copies of the “contracts” from school administration. Weeks later, while board members still were waiting for the solicited information, The Schilling Show issued the following FOIA request to Maury Brown, Communications Coordinator for Albemarle County Public Schools (ACPS):
From: Rob Schilling
Sent: Thursday, April 14, 2011 11:06 AM
To: Maury Brown
Subject: FOIA Request: Albemarle County Schools’ AD Exclusivity Agreements
Can you please provide me with copies of Albemarle County High Schools’ Athletic Program Directors’ signed ‘exclusivity agreements’ with sporting apparel and equipment companies for the current year and the three previous years?
Thanks very much for your assistance.
Later that same day, copies of the contracts for each of Albemarle County’s three high schools were sent to The Schilling Show, provided to the School Board, and released to the media.
Of particular interest was the Monticello High School agreement, which appeared to provide far greater benefit to Athletic Director (AD) Fitzgerald Barnes than did the corresponding contracts from the other Albemarle County high schools and their counterpart ADs. Notably, the copy of the contract provided by Barnes was not signed.
Shortly thereafter, The Schilling Show submitted a FOIA follow up noting that the original request had been for “signed” copies of the agreements:
From: Rob Schilling
Sent: Wed 4/20/2011 5:01 AM
To: Maury Brown
Subject: Re: FULFILLING FOIA Request: Albemarle County Schools’ AD Exclusivity Agreements
Hope your day is off to a good start.
Just wanted to follow up with you on my April 14 FOIA. The original request was for:
“copies of Albemarle County High Schools’ Athletic Program Directors’ signed ‘exclusivity agreements’ with sporting apparel and equipment companies for the current year and the three previous years?”
I am in receipt of one year’s worth of agreements, but these are not fully executed. Are there fully or partially signed versions of the contracts you sent me?
Also, I had requested the current year plus three previous years. Are there agreements for previous years? When may I anticipate copies of those?
I appreciate your help in completing the fulfillment of my request within the legal time frame.
Brown responded that the agreements released to the public were the ones provided by the Athletic Directors in response to the FOIA request:
From: “Maury Brown”
Date: April 20, 2011 09:40:53 AM EDT
To: “Rob Schilling”
Subject: RE: FULFILLING FOIA Request: Albemarle County Schools’ AD Exclusivity Agreements
I sent you all three high schools’ agreements. Did you only receive one? One file was a PDF, one a TIFF (scan) and one a Word document. If you do not have (or are unable to open) the others, I will be happy to resend.
The agreements are multi-year agreements and thus cover the timeframe you requested. Albemarle and Western Albemarle High did not have a previous agreement; this was the first one they entered into.
I will check into whether there are other versions of the agreement other than the ones I sent you; however I can tell you those were the versions provided by the athletic directors and then provided to the school board last Thursday. [Emphasis added.]
Two days later, Maury Brown confirmed that a second inquiry had been made of the division’s high school Athletic Directors, and that no other versions (i.e. signed copies) of the contracts were in “possession” of ACPS:
From: “Maury Brown”
Date: April 22, 2011 03:02:34 PM EDT
To: Rob Schilling
Subject: Your questions about the athletic agreements
Good afternoon, Rob:
I wanted to get back with you about your questions regarding the athletic agreements that we made available to you under your FOIA request.
The WAHS agreement is signed by Steve Heon, the athletic director at WAHS.
We have made another inquiry of our athletic directors and the contracts that we provided to you are the only ones that we have in our possession at Albemarle County Public Schools. It is my understanding that Downtown Athletic does have a copy of the WAHS agreement with both parties’ signatures, but the language of the agreement is identical to the one we submitted to you. We are aware that the agreements we have in our possession are not fully executed, and they are void as a matter of law. In any future educational partnerships with vendors we will ensure that all contracts receive the required legal and administrative review.
At this point we are not aware of any written agreement between UnderArmour and Monticello High School that existed prior to the one that we sent you beginning on March 10. However, we are continuing to review our contract practices with our administrators and would need to confirm this information. [Emphasis added.]
A third FOIA request was sent to ACPS on April 27, 2011 requesting copies of correspondence to or from Fitzgerald Barnes regarding the “exclusivity agreements.” On May 9, 2011 the request was fulfilled:
From: “Maury Brown”
Date: May 9, 2011 08:56:14 AM EDT
To: Rob Schilling
Subject: FOIA response
Good morning, Rob:
Attached please find the documents to or from Fitz Barnes related to the provision of athletic apparel to the coaches/school under the agreement with UnderArmour for the dates you requested.
There is no charge for this request. Thank you for your patience while we coordinated gathering the documents.
Buried deep within one of several multi-page .PDF documents supplied in response to the third FOIA was a troubling document: a copy of the “exclusivity agreement” between Monticello High School and Under Armour, Inc, signed on May 14 (or 24), 2010 by Fitzgerald Barnes! (click here for a signed copy of the contract)
This, after Albemarle County Public Schools Communications Coordinator Brown stated that no such document was provided by Mr. Barnes (or was in ACPS’ possession) after two very specific requests.
This, after Maury Brown reiterated that the contracts were “void as a matter of law” because they were not “fully executed.”
But, the contract was fully executed, by Monticello High School Athletic Director, Fitzgerald Barnes. He simply refused to provide the executed document to his ACPS superiors, including the Albemarle County School Board, who initially had requested the information, many weeks prior.
But Barnes’ troubles don’t end there. The Under Armour, Inc. contract concludes with the following request:
“Please indicate your acceptance of this agreement by having an authorized representative of Monticello High School sign below and return this letter to us.”
Barnes signed the contract, but according to ACPS statements on the incident, he was not authorized to do so. And, ACPS indicated that neither the Albemarle County School Board nor ACPS administration (including Monticello High School Principal, Catherine Worley; and division Superintendent, Pamela Moran) were aware of such contracts.
While ACPS administration and the majority of the Albemarle School Board apparently believe that the entire issue has been resolved and that no wrongdoing has been committed, many questions remain.
- Was Fitzgerald Barnes authorized to sign the Under Armour, Inc. “exclusivity agreement”?
- If not, what are the division’s policies on misrepresentation and employees’ unauthorized signatures on contracts that potentially legally bind the division?
- Why did Fitzgerald Barnes mislead his superiors in ACPS administration by telling them that he was not in possession of an executed agreement, when in fact, he was?
- What is the division’s policy on employees who violate multiple FOIA requests by refusing to provide specific information?
- Can ACPS unilaterally void a contract signed by a division employee acting as an agent for the schools?
These questions and many others have been festering, without reply, for too long. The Schilling Show and a multitude of concerned Albemarle County citizens are waiting for straightforward and complete answers.
The policy that governs these agreements is School Board Policy KQ, “COMMERCIAL, PROMOTIONAL, AND CORPORATE SPONSORSHIPS AND PARTNERSHIPS”. The link to the policy is here: http://esb.k12albemarle.org/Reference_Library/ESB_Policies_and_Regulations/Policies//KQ_1208.pdf
The policy states: “No agreement to enter into an educational sponsorship or partnership with the School Board will be valid or enforceable unless it is in writing and approved by the School Board or its designee in accordance with the requirements of this policy.”
It also states:
“With the prior approval of the School Board or its designee, principals may enter into sponsorships and partnerships for their schools when the sponsorship or partnership does not extend beyond a single school year or exceed $5,000 in value to the school.”
As you stated and we have also noted, these policy requirements were not followed in the case of the three athletic agreements. Thus, the agreements are void as they were not properly executed according to policy requirements.
I hope that clarifies several of your questions above.
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