Recently, concerned citizens brought this information to The Schilling Show, which on April 30 sent a comprehensive FOIA request to Mr. Barkley, his sub administrators, and the entire Greene County Board of Supervisors:
From: Schilling Show
Subject: FOIA Request: Loan to John Barkley
Date: April 30, 2015 at 07:49:05 AM EDT
To: John Barkley <John.Barkley@gcva.us>, “Patti M. Vogt” <firstname.lastname@example.org>, Tracy Morris <Tracy.Morris@gcva.us>, Julius Bates <Julius.Bates@gcva.us>, David Cox <David.Cox@gcva.us>, Jim Frydl <Jim.Frydl@gcva.us>, Bill Martin <Bill.Martin@gcva.us>, Davis Lamb <Davis.Lamb@gcva.us>, Eddie Deane <Eddie.Deane@gcva.us>
Dear Supervisors and County Administrator,
Can you please provide me with an electronic copy of any document created, sent or received by elected, appointed or staff of Greene Co. referencing either directly or indirectly, the loan provided to Mr. Barkley and/or the circumstances surrounding the necessity of the loan?
Also, can you please provide me with a copy of Mr. Barkley’s employment contract?
- Who requested the loan
- What is the amount of the loan
- What are the terms of the loan
- What necessitated the loan
- From where (what account) did the loan funds originate
- Who voted in favor of this loan and who voted against it
Thank you in advance for your timely response to this request.
On May 7, Mr. Barkley replied with a single document, the loan agreement, while refusing to release his employment contract, citing a Virginia Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) exemption:
From: John Barkley <John.Barkley@gcva.us>
Subject: Loan Agreement information
Date: May 7, 2015 at 03:12:59 PM EDT
To: Schilling Show
In response to your April 30, 2015 email requesting information about “the loan provided to Mr. Barkley and/or the circumstances surrounding the necessity of the loan,” see the attached document. The employment contract that you requested is a document exempted from public disclosure under the provisions of the Virginia Freedom of Information Act. The Greene County Board of Supervisors’ respective votes on the loan agreement have been recorded as follows: Aye: Frydl, Martin, Lamb. Nay: Cox. Absent: Dean. The loan is paid from the Greene County general fund operating budget.
John C. Barkley,
Mr. Barkley did not copy any of the other solicited parties, and no other response was received.
Upon learning of Mr. Barkley’s non-response and claimed exemption, Megan Rhyne, Executive Director of the Virginia Coalition for Open Government, expressed alarm:
From: Megan Rhyne
Subject: Re: FOIA Request: Loan to John Barkley
Date: May 7, 2015 at 03:42:29 PM EDT
To: Schilling Show
Hi Rob –
First, I would be surprised to receive only 1 document related to the loan. MAYBE all the discussions about it were verbal, but I would be doubtful.
Second, employment contracts are subject to FOIA. PERIOD. They are not personnel records. And while portions could be redacted (e.g., if they reference a person’s medical history/accommodation, child support obligation, social security number), the contract as a whole must be released:
- 2.2-3705.8. Limitation on record exclusions.
- Neither any provision of this chapter nor any provision of Chapter 38 (§ 2.2-3800 et seq.) of this title shall be construed as denying public access to (i) contracts between a public body and its officers or employees, other than contracts settling public employee employment disputes held confidential as personnel records under § 2.2-3705.1; (ii) records of the position, job classification, official salary or rate of pay of, and records of the allowances or reimbursements for expenses paid to any officer, official or employee of a public body; or (iii) the compensation or benefits paid by any corporation organized by the Virginia Retirement System or its officers or employees.
Noting Ms. Rhyne’s concerns over Mr. Barkley’s extralegal exemption claim and the brevity of his response, The Schilling Show engaged attorney, Chaim Mandelbaum, to sue Greene County for non-compliance with Virginia’s Freedom of Information statute.
Mr. Mandelbaum prepared and notified Greene County of a Petition for Writ of Mandamus and Injunctive Relief; and within two days, under the likely counsel of County Attorney, Ray Clarke, Executive Barkley capitulated and released his secreted employment contract as well as nearly 20 pages of emails responsive to the original FOIA request.
Contained within is a tangled web of seeming obfuscation, deception, secrecy, and manipulation. To the exclusion of Board of Supervisors members Eddie Deane, Bill Martin, and Davis Lamb, —and to a lesser extent, David Cox—Board Chair, Jim Frydl and County Executive John Barkley discuss a series of problems created by Barkley’s deliberate non-enrollment in the Virginia Retirement System (VRS) upon his employment by Greene County. References to evading FOIA requests and avoiding IRS tax liability pepper the clandestine exchange.
Barkley, who earns in excess of $105,000 annually, apparently was financially unwilling or incapable of paying the $5,713.76 he owed to the VRS and thus negotiated loan terms with Mr. Frydl and Attorney Clarke—all the while excluding other Board members from ongoing electronic deliberations.
Many questions remain regarding John Barkley’s non-enrollment in the Virginia Retirement System and the subsequent attempts to remediate the illegal situation created, including the following, posed to Mr. Frydl in a May 20 email:
- To whom did Mr. Barkley make his request to not enroll in VRS
- Was the request made in writing
- On what date was the request made
- Who was aware of this request and by what process was it approved
- Did anyone who was aware of the request raise questions as to its propriety and how were these questions resolved
To which, Mr. Frydl robotically replied:
From: Jim Frydl <Jim.Frydl@gcva.us>
Subject: RE: FOIA Request: Loan to John Barkley
Date: May 20, 2015 at 10:51:07 AM EDT
To: Schilling Show
I am not personally aware of any documents that would answer your questions.
The Board was not made aware of any requests or actions until 9/23/2014
Ultimately, citizens of Greene County deserve cleaner and more transparent governance. The oblivious subset of unbriefed Greene County Supervisors need better inclusion and greater engagement in the Board’s internal decision making processes. And, the taxpayers of Greene County immediately need to be reimbursed and made whole. Mr. Barkley’s self-imposed financial travails are the sole responsibility of Mr. Barkley, himself, and the appurtenant burden should not be publicly borne.
John Barkley and Greene County’s Loan-Gate scandal is far from over. As the public accesses this information, it certainly will demand more.