MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — West Virginia Radio Corp., which did not enter the second round of bidding for WVU’s third-tier media rights, wants the university to unveil the original bid files, according to a protest filed Wednesday.
In a 17-page document sent to WVU’s director of procurement Brenda Mowen, WVRC restated last month’s request for a hearing involving athletics director Oliver Luck, Board of Governors chairman Andrew Payne, state attorney general Patrick Morrisey and procurement office member Tim Bostonia.
Luck and Payne were found to have engaged in inappropriate communications during the original bidding period, resulting in a process Morrisey said was marked by “significant errors and sloppiness.” Payne owns a stake in West Virginia Media, which partnered on IMG’s winning bid in January. IMG’s proposal was disqualified — and all competing bids tossed out — upon the revelation that Payne received confidential information from Luck, according to emails obtained from a freedom-of-information request.
University president Jim Clement removed Luck from the committee evaluating the second round of bidding, and likewise, Payne recused himself this time. However, WVRC contends the latest request-for-proposal (RFP) — at 92 pages, far more detailed than the original —was “tailored to cater” to IMG and West Virginia Media. The new proposal apparently reflects plans the school made with IMG College before irregularities came to light and the negotiations were stalled. The revised RFP calls for bids to be returned by June 18, followed by bidder presentations June 28 and notification of a winner in August.
WVRC, the parent company of MetroNews, is owned by John Raese, a WVU graduate whose criticism of the bidding improprieties led to Morissey’s investigation.
WVRC’s latest protest also seeks to have Mowen barred from considering it, on the basis she ignored university policy by refusing to grant a hearing last month. (The protest cites WVU procurement rule 7.2.4: “In the event the protestor requests a hearing on the merits of the protest, the Chief Procurement Officer shall set a time and place for the hearing.”)
What’s more, WVRC contends that Mowen now be recused from overseeing the third-tier rebidding.
Clarksburg attorney Frank Simmerman, counsel for WVRC, stated in the company’s protest that:
- Allowing IMG and WV Media to participate in the rebidding of multimedia rights “constitutes turning a blind eye to confirmed breaches of public trust and confidence.”
- “IMG and WV Media have a tarnished record which cannot simply be cast aside or otherwise shielded by a re-bid.”
- “Five innocent bidders spent substantial time and money initially participating” in the third-tier proposal process.
Third-tier rights involve any TV broadcasts of football games that are not picked up by a major network, several non-conference basketball games, as well as radio broadcasts, coaches’ shows, stadium sponsorships and online content.