The citizens of Loudoun County who feel embarrassed or ashamed by the antics of elected Supervisor Eugene Delgaudio (R-Sterling), particularly with his virulently anti-gay group Public Advocate, had to be heartened when an outside prosecutor — a Democrat, a Chicagoan, a highly experienced commonwealth’s attorney with no ties to Loudoun — was brought in to take a fresh look at the allegations of malfeasance in his office. Arlington Commonwealth’s Attorney Theo Stamos would get to the bottom of this, either through a criminal grand jury or civil proceedings to eject him from office.
And she did get to the bottom of it. Both with the grand jury and then on her own, she investigated every angle and deposed every key player. Then on Tuesday, she issued a 22-page motion with 75 pages of exhibits, and she completely exonerated Delgaudio of any possible grounds for removal from office. Her motion and exhibits are below, and they are absolutely worth reading. Caitlin Gibson’s news story on the end of the recall effort is here. The failed effort will likely result in the county taxpayers being forced to pay Delgaudio’s legal fees, which his lawyer estimated will be up to $40,000.
It was an investigation by Gibson in September 2012 that got this whole thing rolling, and gave hope to those who felt maybe this would result in the ouster of the four-times-elected supervisor. But The Post’s story, based in large part on the allegations of former Delgaudio staffer Donna Mateer, did not claim that Delgaudio’s actions — in particular having Mateer, on county time, set up meetings with potential political donors — broke any laws. And when it came down to it, Mateer’s allegations were simply not enough to unseat Delgaudio.
Last year, a special grand jury ruled that Delgaudio hadn’t broken any laws, partly because being a supervisor is a part-time job not covered by many political laws. The Loudoun Board of Supervisors censured Delgaudio anyway, stripping him of staff and office budget, for allegedly not responding to constituents’ requests and treating his employees badly. Delgaudio felt he didn’t get a chance to respond in that venue; the other supervisors felt he did.
So now came the petition from 686 Sterling residents to have a judge throw Delgaudio out of office. Here, the legal bar is not “did he violate the law beyond a reasonable doubt,” but instead, did he show “neglect of duty, misuse of office or incompetence…[which] has a material adverse effect upon the conduct of the office.” Perhaps a difficult bar to clear, but Stamos not only deposed Mateer, she also deposed Delgaudio himself, and she spoke to the political donors who met with Delgaudio, and looked at the phone logs and records kept by Mateer, among other things.
In the end, Stamos wrote that she had “concerns about Mateer’s credibility that impact [Stamos’] view of the allegation as a whole.” In particular, when Mateer claimed in a sworn affidavit that she “spent all my time” for two months making political calls for Delgaudio, the records simply didn’t support that. “At least on some days,” Stamos wrote, “she was spending very little time making calls.” When Mateer claimed that she was being supervised by a woman from Public Advocate, she was directly contradicted by five other staffers.
Mateer’s claims that Delgaudio was an abusive boss were “entirely credible,” Stamos wrote. But she concluded she could not “prove by clear and convincing evidence that Supervisor Delgaudio was forcing staffers to set up political fundraising meetings as a condition of their employment.”
I asked Stamos Thursday for her final analysis. As with the special grand jury’s conclusions, she said, “we also felt the evidence was wanting. He was a difficult boss who was not kind to his staff, and it seems like it was a very difficult workplace environment. But it wasn’t anything illegal.” She said she understood that the people who filed the petition for his removal felt strongly about Delgaudio, “but they need to find another avenue.”
Mateer’s lawyer, Stevens Miller, did not respond to a request for comment Thursday.
Charles King, Delgaudio’s lawyer, said Stamos first looked at Mateer’s complaint two years ago, “and after five minutes distilled the exact truth” about the case. “This was the first team that was brought in here,” he said, referring both to Stamos and retired Arlington Circuit Court Judge Paul Sheridan, who ultimately dismissed the recall petition on Stamos’ motion. “These people had no political connections and these were people who were going to get at the truth no matter what.”
Delgaudio was in a humble mood when I spoke to him Thursday. He said the grand jury investigation and recall effort had made him a more effective and more responsive supervisor. He was adamant that his county staff did not assist with his 2011 campaign, but “maybe I found I need to be a little more respectful of staff and patient with the new people,” meaning the new supervisors elected with him that year. “Just because I was elected four times does not mean I should be disrespectful.”
Well, maybe not that humble.
Delgaudio added, “I have to be mindful that there are people that really really don’t want me around and have made it their business to get me out.” Combine that with those people “who stood by me,” and the devout conservative said “I have a new humility.” Then he began rattling off the funding he’d gotten for sidewalks and ball fields and the diverse demographics of Sterling, and it was back to business for Delgaudio. He’ll be up for his fifth election next year.
Here are the documents filed by Stamos on Tuesday, including not only her motion to dismiss but the exhibits that supported her argument that there was no legal case for a recall against Delgaudio: