Is Eugene Delgaudio right?

July 31, 2013

Loudoun County Supervisor Eugene Delgaudio greets parents and children outside Sterling Elementary School in 2012. His supporters claim he was not given due process before being severely punished by his colleagues on the Loudoun Board of Supervisors. (Tracy Woodward/The Washington Post)

A significant amount of support has arisen for Loudoun County Supervisor Eugene Delgaudio (R-Sterling) after the Loudoun Board of Supervisors recently censured him, took over his $100,000 office budget, took away his staff and removed him from any outside boards. The Post’s Caitlin Gibson reported Sunday that the Loudoun County Republican Committee is outraged at the treatment of Delgaudio, and is preparing to demand that the county board reverse itself and restore to Delgaudio all of the rights and privileges he formerly enjoyed.

As a longtime courts reporter, I wondered if Delgaudio was given a fair shake by the board, after a special grand jury found that the longtime supervisor and anti-gay crusader had broken no laws. He and his supporters argue that he wasn’t given due process — that he had inadequate advance notice of the censure hearing, and was unable to fully present his defense. He didn’t testify before the grand jury, though he did provide them the documents they requested, according to their report. Delgaudio’s lawyer, Charles King, said Delgaudio received the charges from his board colleagues “less than 48 hours before the meeting,” and King was not allowed to make a detailed presentation to the board.

King also said Delgaudio had defenses to at least two key points, first revealed by Gibson in The Post last year, saying that Delgaudio “was not running Public Advocate,” Delgaudio’s anti-gay lobbying firm, “out of his county office.” He also said that Donna Mateer, the former aide who went public with allegations of misdeeds by Delgaudio, “was not sitting around making fundraising calls all day long.” King added, “There was no due process…They had to hear him out. And they didn’t do that.”

State Sen.Dick Black (R-Loudoun) released a statement which said, “I would not vote for punitive action against someone who successfully weathered a six-month grand jury investigation. And I certainly would not vote to fire Eugene’s aide and deprive Sterling Park of their right to full and proper representation.” Other Delgaudio supporters also noted that one of the most eye-popping allegations discussed by the grand jury report, that Delgaudio may have received two $5,000 campaign contributions and not reported them, was not mentioned in the board’s charges against him.

Scott K. York, chairman of the Loudoun County Board of Supervisors. Favors construction of the Bi-County Parkway. (Scott K. York)
Scott K. York, chairman of the Loudoun County Board of Supervisors. Says Delgaudio was given ample opportunity to defend himself before being censured. (Scott K. York)

Delgaudio’s colleagues on the all-Republican Loudoun board largely disagree with the support for Delgaudio, and seem disinclined to revisit their move any time soon. And Chairman Scott York made several points to me up front: that Delgaudio had known since July 3, as most everyone did, that Delgaudio’s status would be discussed at the July 17 meeting, and also that “this is not a court of law. It’s more like a family disciplinary council,” and so rules of evidence and legal procedure aren’t in play.

“If there is any fault,” York said, “I did not send an e-mail out to Eugene until Monday [before the Wednesday meeting] stating we were going to go into a Committee of the Whole,” meaning he would have unlimited time to defend himself. “As I told the members,” York said, “if Eugene takes up two and a half hours and is giving us intelligent reasoning and a defense, I’ll do it. But if he comes out in some of his clownish behavior, I’ll close it down.” And because this was a board meeting, he would not allow King to do the talking for Delgaudio.

“When we opened up,” York said, “did he address any of the issues? Did he say ‘Not guilty! Not guilty!’? Not one time did he do that.”

He said the previous supervisor sanctioned by the Loudoun board, after a three-hour board hearing, had not been subject to a full-fledged special grand jury investigation, which in this case was led by Arlington Commonwealth’s Attorney Theo Stamos, a Democrat. York said other supervisors suspected bad activity was going on in Delgaudio’s office, but “the problem was we couldn’t confirm it. We couldn’t grab witnesses, we don’t have subpoena power. The grand jury report gave us that confirmation.” York accurately noted that Delgaudio declined to address any of the allegations during the board’s long July 17 hearing, and other supervisors pointed that out during the hearing, Delgaudio wasn’t raising any substantive defenses.

Two of Delgaudio’s colleagues on the board, Geary Higgins and Janet Clarke, voted against the sanctions, and both told the Loudoun Times-Mirror that Delgaudio hadn’t been given a fair opportunity to respond. They supported creating a new board committee to investigate, but York and other supervisors felt the grand jury had already covered that ground better than a committee with no subpoena power could.

To revisit some of the biggest allegations made in the grand jury report, which Delgaudio so far has not rebutted:

State Sen. Dick Black (R-Loudoun) supports Eugene Delgaudio and wants to see the penalties imposed on him by the Loudoun Board of Supervisors reversed. (Dick Black)
State Sen. Dick Black (R-Loudoun) supports Eugene Delgaudio and wants to see the penalties imposed on him by the Loudoun Board of Supervisors reversed. (Dick Black)

“Witness testimony indicated Delgaudio specifically instructed his aides not to answer the phones or address constituent concerns, and instead focus on other priorities, to include calling and creating mailings derived from” a political donor list;

Satirical videos by Delgaudio’s Public Advocate “show Delgaudio’s Board of Supervisors aides and others dressed in costume or with bags over their heads during daytime hours;”

“Multiple witnesses testified,” the report said, about “acts of verbal abuse that on multiple occasions brought his aides to tears and led to the departure of several employees;”

The grand jury also found indications of two $5,000 donations to the supervisor, and both times “the $5,000 was not listed on Delgaudio’s campaign finance report.”

This last item was not raised by the board in its discipline of Delgaudio, and Delgaudio’s backers wondered if that was because York had similar reporting problems. York said he did not. He said he reported all of his donations, and told the grand jury that. He said county attorney Jack Roberts advised the board not to deal with the reporting issue, that “It is not a board matter, it is an electoral board matter.” He also denied that the omission from the board discussion had anything to do with his support for the Bi-County Parkway. “There’s not a single ounce of truth in that.”

York also said Delgaudio’s punishment was not indefinite. “If they really have a case,” the chairman said, “they can write it up and submit it to the board. He can have a board member make a motion on his behalf. I don’t think that’s going to happen, but it’s an option.”

The other option for Delgaudio is the courts, and that could go two ways. First, his lawsuit against the board is pending, and King said he plans to pursue it in hopes of reversing the censure. But John Flannery, a former Democratic candidate for county prosecutor, said that “the law says a legislative chamber gets to police its own,” and that “even now, he says he has a defense but it goes unstated.” He said Delgaudio “has every right to pursue a court case … but I think the outcome, sooner or later, is fairly predictable.”

That leaves the other court avenue, in which some Sterling residents are seeking to recall Delgaudio. This would not result in a public vote, but instead a petition to circuit court, where under Virginia law he would be entitled to a jury trial on the issue of “neglect of duty, misuse of office, or incompetence in the performance of duties” if those acts had “a material adverse effect upon the conduct of the office.”

For the Loudoun circuit court to accept the petition, recall supporters must get the signatures of ten percent of those who voted in the last Sterling district election in 2011, which would be 537 signatures (5,365 votes). Then a trial would be held, with the Commonwealth’s Attorney representing those supporting the recall. Loudoun Commonwealth’s Attorney Jim Plowman already recused himself from the grand jury investigation, and might do so again if the court accepted the petition. And if that case proceeded, Delgaudio might finally get his full day in court. But then, it would be to save his job, not just his office budget.

Tom Jackman is a native of Northern Virginia and has been covering the region for The Post since 1998.
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