In response to the controversy surrounding Loudoun County Supervisor Eugene A. Delgaudio (R-Sterling), a group in Sterling has started a petition drive to request that a Loudoun Circuit Court judge remove him from public office.

Delgaudio, a four-term supervisor, has been the subject of a criminal investigation since November, when Arlington County Commonwealth’s Attorney Theo Stamos (D) was appointed to review allegations that Delgaudio used county resources for fundraising for his political campaign.

The launch of the petition drive at a community meeting Saturday followed a Washington Post report last week that prosecutors had begun impaneling a grand jury to review evidence against Delgaudio.

Delgaudio has denied any wrongdoing and maintains that his fundraising efforts were solely intended to benefit a local youth football league.

More than 40 Sterling residents attended the Saturday meeting, which was hosted by the group Sterling Deserves Better, said Al Nevarez, a Democrat who is among the leaders of the effort.

The Loudoun County Democratic Committee has provided logistical support for the group, committee Chairman Evan MacBeth said. But Nevarez, who ran against Delgaudio in 2011, noted that the group has Republican and independent members.

“These are people who are just always concerned about what’s going on in Sterling, and generally speaking have not been too thrilled with Eugene Delgaudio’s representation over the years,” Nevarez said.

“We wanted to establish something inclusive, where everyone could be welcome, separate from Democratic politics,” he said.

Sterling Deserves Better is primarily concerned that the allegations against Delgaudio and the resulting ongoing investigation have left the supervisor unable to effectively represent the district, Nevarez said. Last month, Delgaudio was removed from his positions on the board’s Finance, Government Services and Operations Committee and the Transportation and Land Use Committee.

“When he and the other supervisors voted to keep him off any committees, that clearly is having an adverse effect on the conduct of the office,” Nevarez said. “Sterling doesn’t have a voice on these committees anymore.”

Nevarez said that Sterling Deserves Better created 26 petition packets, each identifying 100 voters in Sterling, and that all had been claimed by volunteers by the end of the weekend.

The group would need to collect about 600 signatures, he said, representing 10 percent of the number of voters who participated in the 2011 election, for the petition to be considered in the county Circuit Court.

The petition cites, in addition to the criminal allegations against Delgaudio and his removal from the board committees, Delgaudio’s leadership of Public Advocate, a nonprofit organization that advocates against gay rights. The organization has been designated a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center and is involved in federal litigation over its unauthorized use of a same-sex couple’s engagement photos on
its anti-gay campaign fliers.

The Virginia Code says a circuit court can remove an elected officer for neglect of duty, misuse of office or “a material adverse effect upon the conduct of the office” resulting from incompetence in the performance of duties.

Sterling Deserves Better is intent on collecting a “strong number” of signatures before filing the petition, Nevarez said.

“The requirement is 600. But the goal is 1,200, and we would like to see that number get over 2,000,” he said. “We’re willing to be patient to get there.”

Delgaudio’s attorney, Charles King, responded to the petition drive in a statement Tuesday. He noted that Delgaudio’s opponents might find it difficult to gain support among the supervisor’s constituency.

“Supervisor Delgaudio has been elected four times in the most liberal, diverse and necessitous part of Loudoun County,” King said. “Why does somebody known for their conservative views and national opposition to the gay and lesbian political agenda continue to win reelection in a district where, demographically, he should not? If there is a pothole on the street in front of their home, most folks are more concerned about having it filled quickly with Supervisor Delgaudio’s help than with his opposition to gay marriage.”

King also responded Tuesday to last week’s reports regarding the impaneling of a grand jury. In the statement, he said he was not surprised that a special grand jury was seated, given the complex details and substantial number of documents involved of the case.

“It’s sad the political climate in Loudoun County is so toxic we now have a special grand jury to investigate three meetings to raise money for kids in Sterling to play football,” he said. “Impaneling a special grand jury tells me Ms. Stamos wants to use all the tools at her disposal to do a thorough investigation . . . my opinion is when this is over, Supervisor Delgaudio will have been found to have done nothing wrong.”