March 22, 2012
A familiar face in Charlottesville government has stepped down amid an investigation in City Hall. Citing stress, Ric Barrick announced his resignation Wednesday from the role of Director of Communications for the City of Charlottesville.
The announcement came less than a day after local radio host Rob Schilling revealed an investigation into Barrick's involvement in the purchase of a weather system for Charlottesville's public access channel, TV10. A probe that resulted in no criminal charges.
A special prosecutor assigned to the case determined that Barrick favored one weather service, Kansas-based Weather Metrics, over another, Weather Central, despite the former having a higher bid price.
In emails posted on Schilling's blog, available through the Freedom of Information Act, Barrick calls the Weather Metrics service "superior" and expresses preference for them over Weather Central.
According to documents obtained by the WINA radio personality, a representative from Weather Metrics offered in January 2010 to provide the service at a cost of $26,000 over 36 months (approx. $722 per month). Barrick got back to the sales rep on Nov. 12, 2010, telling him the company would have to submit a Request for Quotation (RFQ) to compete for the contract.
According to the terms, companies had until 5 p.m. on Nov. 22, 2010 to submit the RFQ and the contract would go to the lowest bidder.
Weather Central was the only other company to respond to the RFQ, offering to provide the service at a cost of $18,490 for 36 months (approx. $514 per month), cheaper by more than $200 per month when compared to the Weather Metrics submission (note: both proposals can be found on Schilling's blog).
Having a preference for the higher bid, but unable to select it due to the rules of the RFQ, Barrick negotiated a lower price with Weather Metrics in December 2010, well after bidding had closed. A move Schilling says is against Virginia code.
Nonetheless, Weather Metrics reduced its proposal to a total cost of $17,000 and cut the length of the contract in half, to 18 months. That made its bid the lowest despite still having a higher monthly cost than that of Weather Central (approx. $944 versus $514).
Still, the year-long investigation was not enough to find Barrick guilty of any wrongdoing. Special prosecutor Diana Wheeler informed a judge that Barrick's actions were "well motivated and were actually taken for the benefit of the citizens. He simply wanted a superior product at the best price."
Barrick, who will remain on city staff to finish work with the Celebrate250 project, tells CBS19 he is unable to comment on the investigation. He says the stress of handling the Huguely trial, coupled with this investigation, spurred him to resign.
"The issue with Mr. Schilling was another sign to me that I need to slow down my life and spend more needed time and energy on my family," he explained in an email to CBS19.
Despite stepping down, Barrick says he wants to stay in his native Charlottesville and continue work in public service.
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