Could Brightman's "personal" reason for leaving UVIMCO be an affair with his assistant?

When former UVIMCO CEO Chris Brightman unexpectedly announced his resignation, confirmed in a March 18 report by Pensions & Investments magazine, he said it was for “personal reasons.” A complaint for divorce filed in the Charlottesville Circuit Court on March 29 suggests that those personal reasons might include an alleged adulterous affair he had with his executive assistant, Carolyn Paige Barfield, while both were employed by the organization that oversees UVA’s endowment, the University of Virginia Investment Management Company.

A divorce filing alleges that former UVIMCO CEO Chris Brightman was involved in an adulterous affair with his assistant. Brightman declined to comment on the allegation.

“At the time, Defendant [Barfield] was employed by the University of Virginia Investment Management Company, and Mr. Brightman was an executive at UVIMCO,” reads the document.

The complaint alleges that Brightman and Barfield (then known by her married name, Carolyn Paige Sawyer) committed adultery on February 10 and 11 while in Phoenix, Arizona, during travel for what is referred to in the document as a “work event.” From February 7 to February 10, a company named NMS Management hosted its Winter Investment Management Forum for Endowments & Foundations at the Arizona Biltmore Resort in Phoenix; Brightman was listed as one of three forum chairmen in a pamphlet for the event.

Reached by phone, Barfield told C-VILLE that she has “no comment on anything pertaining to my employment at UVIMCO,” and repeated the same when asked if she traveled to Phoenix in February. Asked whether she engaged in an adulterous affair with Brightman, she also had no comment.

Asked about the allegations in the complaint, Brightman responded, “I’m not interested in commenting, thank you,” and repeated that he resigned for personal reasons.

Brightman was hired as CEO of UVIMCO in November 2004, and oversaw the growth of UVA’s endowment from roughly $2.5 billion in assets at the time of his appointment to as much as $5.1 billion at the height of his tenure and then, after severe market losses, a drop to a total of $4.4 billion in assets as of a January 2010 investment report. Despite these vacillations in the fund’s value, UVA leadership stood behind him. 

“We have a strong, close-knit team in place ready to work with Chris,” said Leonard Sandridge, UVA’s Chief Operating Officer, in a November 2004 story published by UVA concerning Brightman’s appointment. “They are eager for his new leadership and ready for the challenging work that lies ahead.” When the overall investment pool dropped to $4 billion in October 2008, Sandridge said in an e-mailed statement, “We believe that our diversified investment strategy and long-term view will serve us well in the current environment as it has in the past.”

Contacted for comment, Kristina Alimard, the Chief Operating Officer of UVIMCO, said that she was not allowed to speak on behalf of the company. “Our disclosure policy says everything has to go through UVA,” explained Alimard. Carol Wood, UVA’s Vice President for Public Affairs, said that UVA doesn’t comment “on any individual employee’s employment or personnel situations.”

UVIMCO’s website includes details of the company’s Code of Ethics as well as a “Whistleblower Policy.” According to the Code of Ethics, UVIMCO employees “conduct ourselves free of personal conflicts or appearances of impropriety.” The code also notes that employee communications “with all persons, including co-employees…are conducted professionally and with civility,” and that UVIMCO does not condone dishonesty, “including misuse of UVIMCO or investment funds, or property, fraud, theft, cheating, plagiarism or lying.”

UVIMCO’s Whistleblower Policy states, “It is the responsibility of all UVIMCO employees and board members to comply with the Code of Ethics and to report violations or suspected violations.”

The Winter Investment Management Forum that took place this year in Phoenix is a members-only event. Annual memberships cost $400; the registration form also states that institutions “may register up to two staff members from your institution to attend the entire four-day forum,” at a price of $395 for the first attendee and $695 for the second. At press time, C-VILLE could not confirm whether UVA has a membership with NMS Management.

While the event reportedly concluded on February 10, the divorce complaint alleges that Barfield traveled with Brightman to Phoenix and “committed adultery on February 10 and 11, 2010 in Phoenix with Christopher Brightman.”  A spokeswoman for NMS Management said that executive assistants routinely attend the event, in addition to CEOs and other foundation and endowment employees.

Charlottesville City Council recently announced that Barfield, who worked at UVIMCO from May 2004 until March 1, 2010, will replace Jeanne Cox as the clerk of City Council following Cox’s retirement on April 30. Barfield told C-VILLE that she resigned from UVIMCO effective March 1. Pensions & Investments confirmed Brightman’s resignation on March 18, and wrote that Brightman’s reasons for resignation were “unrelated to UVIMCO’s operations.”

The alleged trip to Phoenix overlaps with City Council’s search for a clerk. Applications for the position were accepted from February 5 through February 19; in addition to an online application form, applicants were asked to submit copies of their résumés. City Human Resources Director Galloway Beck wrote in an e-mail forwarded to C-VILLE by city spokesman Ric Barrick that Barfield’s application for the position of clerk of council was exempt from Freedom of Information Act requests. 

C-VILLE obtained a copy of a letter that is written on UVIMCO letterhead, dated February 23, and signed for Chris Brightman, in support of Barfield’s application to City Hall that describes her as…"keenly devoted to her work."

"I admire Paige for her many valuable qualities and regard her with the utmost respect," continues the letter. Asked whether he wrote such a letter, Brightman said, "I don’t think that’s any of your business."

Barfield is a graduate of UVA, class of 2003. Brightman, whose previous work includes a role as Chief Investment Officer at Strategic Investment, where he managed a reported $9 billion in assets, is a graduate of Virginia Tech, class of 1983, and holds an MBA from Loyola College. 

Recently, Brightman’s 21-acre Blandemar home went on the market for $2.75 million—more than 40 percent above its 2010 tax assessment. The home was reassessed at $1.65 million by an appraiser on March 25.

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