Loudoun County will foot the bill for legal fees paid by county Supervisor Eugene Delgaudio during his recent defense against a recall petition that sought his removal from public office.
The petition, signed by nearly 700 Sterling voters and filed in January, was dismissed at a pre-trial hearing last month. The dismissal marked the end of a prolonged legal controversy surrounding Delgaudio, who was the subject of a criminal investigation sparked by allegations that he used his public office for political gain.
Delgaudio was not indicted by a grand jury empaneled to review evidence in the case. But the grand jury issued a detailed report that outlined numerous concerns with the operation of Delgaudio’s office, and suggested that the supervisor may have avoided indictment because, at the time, state laws governing the misuse of public assets only applied to full-time government employees.
As a result of the Delgaudio case, a new statewide law — granting counties the authority to criminalize the misuse of public assets by all government officials, including part-time employees— went into effect this month. Loudoun supervisors are expected to enact such an ordinance in September.
The grand jury report spurred a grassroots group of Sterling residents to file the recall petition against Delgaudio. At a hearing Friday in Loudoun County Circuit Court, retired Arlington County Circuit Court Judge Paul Sheridan granted a motion filed by Charles King, Delgaudio’s attorney, seeking reimbursement for about $35,500 in legal fees.
“There was a lack of probable cause to proceed and Supervisor Delgaudio previously incurred fees defending himself against a Special Grand Jury Investigation for which he was not charged,” King said in a previous statement “The Citizens of Sterling should have read the Special Grand Jury report before they started collecting signatures. If they had, they might have decided to spare the taxpayers the expense of a defending this frivolous petition.”
The fees, King said in court, only included work directly related to the recall petition, excluding about $80,000 in fees accumulated during the grand jury investigation.
“I expected a higher fee claim,” Sheridan told King at the hearing. “I think it’s utterly clear that it’s reasonable... the fee is modest.”
Arlington County Commonwealth’s Attorney Theo Stamos, who led the criminal investigation of Delgaudio and represented the commonwealth during the recall petition case, did not oppose the motion.
Last week, King also filed a motion opposing the public release of transcripts of testimony given during the grand jury investigation. Stamos also said Friday that the transcripts should stay under seal.
Sheridan agreed that the transcripts should remain confidential, as is generally the case in grand jury investigations.
The transcripts include testimony from members of the Board of Supervisors as well as current and former county staff. King argued that the transcripts should remain under seal “because of derogatory comments made by several Supervisors,” according to a statement issued last week.
“There were unkind words said about other current Supervisors, former Supervisors, Republicans, Democrats, one person who is deceased, two people in very poor health, people who have moved away and members of the community who have no relationship to this investigation. One Supervisor in particular made a number of allegations,” King said.
He declined to identify any specific officials or individuals, but suggested that the transcripts would cause harm if released — something Delgaudio wanted to avoid, King said.
“Were these comments released, the persons mentioned would have little or no ability to defend themselves against irrelevant, unsubstantiated, probably untrue, allegations,” King said. “To the extent he can, Supervisor Delgaudio wants to spare anybody else the ordeal he has endured. There is no point in hurting those who have no information pertinent to any of the allegations made in the removal petition.”
Last week, Delgaudio regained control of the $120,600 Sterling district budget, one year after his fellow board members voted to strip him of control over the funds in response to the grand jury report.