No indictment for Loudoun supervisor Eugene Delgaudio

Loudoun County Supervisor Eugene A. Delgaudio (R-Sterling) will not face criminal charges after a months-long investigation by a special grand jury into allegations that he used his county office to benefit his political campaign.

Although the grand jury did not return an indictment Monday, it took the unusual step of issuing a report outlining potential problems within Delgaudio’s public office — including the potential misuse of county resources, campaign funds that might have gone unreported, a lack of focus on constituent services, a hostile work environment and an “indistinct association” between his county office and his conservative nonprofit organization, Public Advocate of the United States, which campaigns against gay rights.

The jurors wrote that they investigated “several instances that appeared to present a conflict of interest among Delgaudio’s (Board of Supervisors) staff activities, Public Advocate and his campaign that created the potential for perceived malfeasance and unintentional cross-over between county business and the supervisor’s private activities.”

Arlington County Commonwealth’s Attorney Theo Stamos (D), who was appointed in November to oversee the investigation, said Monday that she did not ask the jury to consider indictments. She would not elaborate, but in the report, the jurors said they thought that they were not instructed to consider indictments in part because of legal limitations.

The investigation stemmed from an accusation by Donna Mateer, one of Delgaudio’s former part-time county aides, who in a Washington Post article last year said that she was directed to spend much of her work time in early 2012 scheduling fundraising meetings for the supervisor instead of interacting with constituents. Aides also alleged that he verbally abused them.

Eugene Delgaudio

Mateer collected extensive records, including fundraising spreadsheets and correspondence related to her allegations. She was fired shortly after she filed a complaint with the county human resources department last year.

“I am thankful this long process is now over,” Delgaudio, 58, said during a news conference Monday afternoon. “If there is a lesson here, it is that we should attempt to settle our political differences civilly and through political debate, not by attempting to diminish one’s opponent by falsely accusing them of misconduct.”

Delgaudio, one of the region’s most controversial politicians who has publicly denounced gay people as “perverts” and “freaks,” declined to take questions because the county Board of Supervisors could still take action against him, said his attorney, Charles King.

King said that he had expected that the investigation would not result in criminal charges.

“I think this was a very thorough investigation, and Supervisor Delgaudio cooperated fully,” King said. “It’s significant that no indictments were returned. . . . These folks worked very hard, but it doesn’t appear that they found anything new.”

Delgaudio has long maintained that he has done nothing wrong. Although he has acknowledged that his aides were told to set up fundraising meetings, he has said they were intended to benefit a local youth football league.

According to the jury’s report, however, several witnesses said the youth league was never brought up during the meetings.

One witness testified that during a meeting with Delgaudio, the supervisor offered a pamphlet for his campaign, along with an envelope and a card soliciting money to “Retire Delgaudio Campaign Debt,” and “said that no amount is too small.”

But the report said Virginia law states that the use of public assets for personal or political gain is only illegal for “full-time” employees. Because county supervisors are not required to work a certain number of hours, it is difficult to claim that they are full time, the report said.

“While there is testimony that supports at least a circumstantial assertion of misuse of public assets, the Code of Virginia criminalizes such action only for ‘full-time’ employees,” the report said. “Consequently, additional avenues of potential investigation were ultimately dropped.”

The jury “strongly urges” a change to the statute, the report said.

The report also highlighted the overlap between the operations of Delgaudio’s county office and Public Advocate, which has been called a “hate group” by the Southern Poverty Law Center. Some of Delgaudio’s aides helped produce controversial anti-gay videos for the organization, and participated in meetings where Public Advocate’s work was discussed.

“It is unclear . . . whether the county employees were paid with county funds for the meetings in which both county and Public Advocate business were discussed, blurring the lines between the two,” the report said.

King said that the concern over Delgaudio’s other role as president of Public Advocate was because of the controversial nature of the organization’s work.

“It’s pro-family, which offends some of the folks who live in Loudoun County,” King said.

The jurors also raised questions about two possible $5,000 donations that were not included in Delgaudio’s campaign finance disclosure forms, based on two envelopes on which Delgaudio had allegedly written “$5,000 donor” and instructions to send a thank-you note and add the donor to a fundraising spreadsheet.

One of the possible donors allegedly made the contribution while the Board of Supervisors was reviewing a development project that he opposed.

“Around the timeframe of the postmark on the envelope . . . the [Board] voted for a second time on this land use decision,” the report said. “Testimony indicated Supervisor Delgaudio supported this project in the original [Board] vote and then voted against it a second time.”

The alleged donor denied making the contribution. At the news conference, King questioned the authenticity of the envelopes and said Delgaudio never received the contributions.

In their report, the jurors wrote that the statute of limitations in cases involving corruption in land-use decisions is one year.

“Because land use proceedings can be very involved, by the time any potential violation is highlighted and researched, it may be difficult to pursue charges within one year,” the report said.

The jurors recommended that the Virginia General Assembly consider extending the statute of limitations to up to five years.

The jurors also made recommendations at the county level, including creating a process where county supervisor aides “can inquire as to the legality of any tasks assigned to them or report potential illegal activities.”

At the news conference, King said that the jurors “may have interpreted their task too broadly” by including recommendations that county and state officials review regulations about potential misuse of office. “Call me old-fashioned, but I believe the special grand jury’s job was to investigate possible wrongdoing under existing law,” he said.

Al Nevarez, a Democrat who ran against Delgaudio in 2011 and helped organize the group Sterling Deserves Better, said the group had collected more than 600 signatures for a petition to request that a Loudoun Circuit Court judge remove Delgaudio from office.

The group plans to file the petition in court in the coming days, he said.

Caitlin Gibson is a local news and features writer for The Washington Post.

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