A Loudoun County Circuit Court judge on Tuesday said he will seek to be recused from the matter of a petition filed by Sterling residents requesting that Loudoun County Supervisor Eugene A. Delgaudio be removed from office.
At a hearing Tuesday morning, Circuit Court Judge Burke F. McCahill said he would request that the Supreme Court of Virginia recuse all sitting Loudoun Circuit Court judges and appoint a judge from outside Loudoun to preside over the case.
No further action regarding the case will be taken until the judge is appointed, McCahill said before a courtroom filled with county residents. Delgaudio (R-Sterling) sat quietly beside his attorney during the proceeding.
McCahill did not provide a reason for the recusal. Loudoun County Commonwealth’s Attorney James E. Plowman (R) has also requested that he be recused from the case to avoid any possible conflict, as many of those connected with the case are county employees, members of the community and elected officials.
The petition effort was led by a grass-roots group called Sterling Deserves Better, which formed last year after Delgaudio became the subject of criminal probe resulting from an ex-aide’s claims that he used county resources to benefit his political campaign.
A grand jury did not indict Delgaudio. In a detailed report outlining numerous concerns with his conduct in office, the jurors indicated that an indictment was not possible in part because Virginia law governing the misuse of public assets does not apply to “part-time” government employees like the supervisor.
Among the issues included in the report were claims of misuse of public funds and staff, a hostile work environment, and an indistinct line between work done for Delgaudio’s public office and for his nonprofit group, Public Advocate of the United States, which campaigns against gay rights and has been designated a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center in 2012.
Delgaudio, who has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing, was formally censured by the Board of Supervisors in July and stripped of his local committee assignments and control of his district budget. In January, his position on the county’s Transportation and Land Use Committee was restored.
The grand jury’s report, which plays a central role in the allegations identified by the petition filed last week, has immediately become a matter of contention in the case. Delgaudio’s attorney, Charles King, has requested that the court exclude evidence and testimony that came before the grand jury, as “all grand jury proceedings are secret,” according to the filed memorandum.
Leesburg attorney John Flannery, who filed the petition on behalf of the Sterling citizens, immediately opposed the demand.
“We respectfully insist that Mr. Delgaudio’s request is a transparent effort to bury the evidence made public last June that prompted his censure and now this removal petition,” the petitioners’ motion said.
After the hearing, King said the petition was driven by a disagreement over Delgaudio’s role at Public Advocate. But despite the controversy surrounding the group’s position on national and social matters, King said, “even Supervisor Delgaudio is protected by the First Amendment. “If you disagree with his views, vote for another candidate in the next election.”
But Flannery, who also addressed reporters after the hearing, referred to the Virginia statute that allows for the removal of an elected official if a “material adverse effect” has resulted from the official’s neglect of duty or misuse of office. “Virginia has created a statute so that when you have a toxic pathogen like this supervisor, you don’t have to wait until an election,” Flannery said.
Delgaudio also spoke to media outside the courthouse but declined to answer specific questions about the allegations.
“There is nothing to these charges and never has been and never will be,” he said. “Political sour grapes of the first order — period.”