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Vice chairman of Louisa Board of Supervisors pleads guilty in federal court of embezzling federal funds

Posted on Friday, August 29, 2014 at 5:57 pm

Fitzgerald A. Barnes, vice chairman of the Louisa County Board of Supervisors, pleaded guilty to one misdemeanor county of embezzling federal money.

Fitzgerald A. Barnes, vice chairman of the Louisa County Board of Supervisors, pleaded guilty to one misdemeanor count of embezzling federal money.

Fitzgerald Barnes, vice chairman of the Louisa County Board of Supervisors, pleaded guilty in federal court on Friday, Aug. 29 to one misdemeanor count of embezzling federal money while employed as athletic director at Monticello High School.

Reports indicate that Barnes failed to obtain three competitive bids from separate vendors for the purchase of athletic apparel for students totaling more than $1,000, a violation of Albemarle County Public Schools’ policy.

According to prosecutors, Barnes told David Deane, vice president of Downtown Athletic, to submit three bids to the high school—one for Downtown Athletics and two bids from bogus retailers.  By doing so, Downtown Athletics was assured of being awarded the contract.

The illegal activity took place between August of 2008 and August of 2012, and involved a third defendant, Charles Albert Phillips Jr., vice president of sales for Team Distributor.

Barnes was fined $750 for his part in the bid rigging process, Deane was fined $1,500 and Phillips will have to pay $350.

Phil Giaramita, communications director for Albemarle County Public Schools, said that Barnes was placed on administrative leave with pay immediately after his guilty plea on Friday morning.

“His employment status will be reviewed to determine if any other further action is necessary,” Giaramita said.

“Based upon the investigation and the admissions today in court by the three defendants, we do not believe there was any financial injury to the school division as a result of the activities that resulted in today’s announcement,” Giaramita said in a statement. “As was stated in court today, Mr. Barnes did not realize any personal gain from his actions, nor do we believe these activities continued after 2010.”

Willie Gentry, chairman of the Louisa County Board of Supervisors, said that board members were unaware that Barnes was facing litigation.

“I’m in shock and concerned how this turns out for him and his family,” Gentry said, after first learning about the case. “I think what really needs to be shown is that Fitz got no personal gain from this at all.”

Barnes said in a statement that the matter has weighed heavily on him and his family after Albemarle County Schools performed an internal review of athletic procurement procedures four years ago.

“Based upon the investigation and the misdemeanor plea agreement admitted by me today in court, the agreement was in the best interest of me and my family,” Barnes said in his statement. “I appreciate that people who truly know me, that although this admission of not following procurement procedures six years ago, has lead to this event.”

The situation doesn’t appear to involve his role as a supervisor, according to Louisa County Administrator Christian Goodwin.

“At the current juncture, there is no reason to believe that the citizens of Louisa County have been directly affected by this situation,” Goodwin said.  “As such, legal matters are the business and responsibility of the involved parties.”

The county is researching whether any specific action is required on Louisa’s part.  Phone calls to the Virginia State Board of Elections to learn whether this legal matter could impact Barnes’ ability to serve as an elected official were unsuccessful.

This isn’t the first time that Barnes has faced trouble while employed within a school division. Barnes, who formerly served on the Louisa County High School football coaching staff and was head varsity basketball coach, was among five coaches stripped of their coaching duties in November of 1995 for possessing alcohol on school grounds after a dance at the high school.