Charlottesville, Virginia

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Transparency grading process

Charlottesville is an independent city located in the Commonwealth of Virginia (Sunshine Review). It is considered a county-equivalent.

Website evaluation

Main article: Evaluation of Virginia city websites

This website was last rated in Jan. 4, 2013.

The good

  • Current budget is published.[1]
  • Council members are listed with contact information.[2]
  • Meeting agendas[3] and minutes are available.[4]
  • Local tax information is posted.[5][6]
  • Annual financial audits are posted.[7]
  • Current bids are posted, current contracts are not online.[8]
  • Administrative officials are listed under respective departments.[9]
  • Building permits[10] and zoning information is available.[11]
  • Public information officer is identified and provides an email address, mailing address, and phone number.[12]

The bad

  • Does not include information on Taxpayer-funded lobbying associations.
  • City Attorney's Office says it responds to Freedom of Information Act requests, but doesn't provide any information on how to file open records requests.[13]

FOIA Investigation

Charlottesville City Communications Director, Ric Barrick, tendered his resignation following the release of an investigative report by The Schilling Show Blog and News. [14] In 2010 Rob Schilling, radio show host and former city council member, filed a Freedom of Information Act request for a week of Barrick's emails. The year-long investigation revealed an improper contract award. [15]

Barrick was accused of giving preferential treatment to a company called Weather Metrics, which sought a contract to provide news and weather on the city's public access TV station. Emails show Barrick notifying Weather Metrics that another company had placed a lower bid after the bidding period had ended. Barrick then allowed Weather Metrics to shorten the contract from 36 to 18 months so their price appeared lower, even though it was not. [16]

The investigation into the emails led to accusations of bid-rigging, which resulted in a criminal investigation. Special prosecutor Diana Wheeler was appointed to investigate, but found no criminal intent. In her report Wheeler indicated Barrick was over eager to work with the vendor. The report said Barrick undertook questionable actions and provided "some less than satisfactory answers to certain questions asked, and some apparent violations of rules and practices." [17]

External links