After a prolonged legal controversy surrounding Supervisor Eugene A. Delgaudio (R-Sterling), the Loudoun County Board of Supervisors voted last week to restore his authority over the Sterling district budget.
The vote came one year after the board formally censured Delgaudio and seized control of his district’s funds, in response to a special grand jury report in June 2013 that concluded a months-long criminal investigation of the controversial supervisor. The investigation, which did not result in an indictment, was launched after one of Delgaudio’s former aides alleged that Delgaudio had misused county resources and staff members to benefit his political campaign.
The grand jury report, which outlined numerous concerns regarding Delgaudio’s conduct in office, also prompted nearly 700 voters in his district to sign a recall petition seeking his removal from office. The petition, filed in January, was dismissed last month.
At a board meeting Wednesday, Delgaudio said that it was time to move on. He asked the board to give him control of his district’s roughly $120,600 budget and permit him to once again hire staff aides, a motion that did not go unchallenged by some of his colleagues.
Although the supervisors agreed that Delgaudio should regain control of the funds, several said that his authority over the budget should wait until a new county ordinance that would criminalize the misuse of public assets by all county officials, including part-time employees, is implemented. The ordinance, drafted in response to the controversy involving Delgaudio’s office, is scheduled to go to a public hearing and receive a final vote by the board in September.
Supervisor Suzanne Volpe (R-Algonkian) made the substitute motion to delay Delgaudio’s control of his budget until the new measure goes into effect. A similar statewide law, also spurred by the Delgaudio case and supported by Loudoun supervisors, went into effect this month after being signed by Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D) in March.
“This was about violating board policies, and one of the things that came out of the grand jury was that legislation needed to be put in and changed so that this would not happen in the future,” Volpe said.
Supervisor Ralph M. Buona (R-Ashburn) agreed that it would be worthwhile to delay Delgaudio’s access to his district’s funds until the new county ordinance is adopted. Buona cited Delgaudio’s troublesome treatment of staff members, quoting court records that substantiated Delgaudio’s former aide’s allegations of emotional and mental abuse in the supervisor’s office.
“While that’s not criminal, it paints a poor picture of management, a poor picture of the way I’d like to see tax dollars spent, and, going forward, I’d just hope that you can run a ship that has respect for everybody,” Buona said, addressing Delgaudio.
“I accepted the censure last September, I apologized to the board last September. I stopped this . . . arrogance,” he said. “I stopped that.”
But Volpe pressed on, noting that Republican volunteers encountered Delgaudio knocking on doors last weekend, accompanied by a man who was identified as someone “hoping to be hired” in Delgaudio’s office.
“I don’t know about anybody else, but if the first thing you did with a potential hire was show them how to knock doors for you, that’s not usually my first requirement when I’m hiring someone as a staff aide,” Volpe said. “I hope I don’t need to say anything more.”
Delgaudio quickly protested. “Is that another allegation?” he asked, adding that the man was “an American citizen” and describing Volpe’s comments as “reckless.”
“We’re not campaigning. I’m not campaigning for anything,” he said.
The majority of board members said there was little point in delaying Delgaudio’s access to his budget. Supervisor Shawn M. Williams (R-Broad Run) said he was convinced that Delgaudio had received a “big wake-up call,” and Board Chairman Scott K. York (R-At Large) said that although the board’s punishment last year was “the appropriate action” at the time, “it is time to move on.”
Supervisor Matthew F. Letourneau (R-Dulles), who supported Volpe’s motion to delay Delgaudio’s control of his budget, said he was pleased that both the state and the county had moved to enact stricter laws governing the misuse of public assets in response to the scandal. The grand jury, he noted, had indicated that it had failed to indict Delgaudio in part because the existing laws did not apply to part-time employees.
“The grand jury report, in my mind, did not completely go away just because the investigation did,” he said. “There’s been a great step forward for transparency in local government and accountability as a result of all this . . . and that’s not the worst outcome in the world.”
The final vote to restore Delgaudio’s budget passed 8 to 1, with Volpe opposing.