A drawn-out legal controversy surrounding Loudoun County Supervisor Eugene Delgaudio came to an end in Loudoun County Circuit Court Tuesday, when a recall petition case that aimed to remove the embattled supervisor from office was dismissed.
At a pre-trial hearing, retired Arlington County Circuit Court Judge Paul Sheridan agreed with a motion filed by Arlington County Commonwealth’s Attorney Theo Stamos, who said that the case should be dismissed because it lacked the “clear and convincing evidence” needed to justify proceeding to trial.
The petition against Delgaudio (R-Sterling), which was signed by 686 voters in his district and filed in January, makes numerous allegations against the four-term supervisor — including “neglect of duty,” “misuse of office” and a lack of distinction between the work of his public office and his nonprofit organization, Public Advocate of the United States, which frequently draws media attention for its campaigns against gay rights.
The petition’s allegations stem from evidence that surfaced during a criminal investigation of Delgaudio, launched after one of his former staff aides, Donna Mateer, complained that the supervisor used his public office for his political benefit.
That investigation, led by Stamos, did not lead to an indictment. But the grand jury released a detailed report outlining numerous alleged problems with Delgaudio’s conduct in office, including the potential misuse of county resources; neglected constituent services; a hostile work environment; campaign funds that might have gone unreported; and an “indistinct association” between the work of his county office and Public Advocate. The report also suggested that the supervisor escaped criminal charges in part because Virginia law governing the use of public assets only applied to full-time employees.
The report prompted the county Board of Supervisors to vote in July 2013 to formally censure Delgaudio and strip his authority over the Sterling district budget.
Delgaudio has consistently denied any wrongdoing.
Charles King, Delgaudio’s attorney, said in a prepared statement following the dismissal that “the two year snipe hunt for Eugene Delgaudio is over. Before the bloggers chime in, everybody should know this case ended because there was no evidence.”
King said that Mateer had lied in her allegation that she spent a majority of her working hours making calls to set up fundraising meetings for Delgaudio, using a spreadsheet of possible donors. King said a forensic analysis of the county phone system showed only 116 calls, with a total duration of about two hours.
“The physical evidence doesn’t support her claims,” King said in his statement.
In her motion to dismiss, Stamos wrote that the Commonwealth “cannot prove by clear and convincing evidence that Delgaudio was forcing staffers to set up political fundraising meetings as a condition of their employment.”
Stamos said the investigation did find that Mateer and other employees in Delgaudio’s office were berated and verbally abused by the supervisor — “the testimony of the more than 30 individuals who testified during the Special Grand Jury investigation painted a vivid picture of the Supervisor that the Commonwealth finds consonant with Mateer’s description of her working conditions,” the motion stated — but added that this poor treatment might have led Mateer to attribute “more nefarious motives” to the tasks she was instructed to perform.
Attorney John Flannery, who represented the grassroots group that launched the recall petition, echoed his previous concerns about Stamos’s appointment as prosecutor in the case.
“The statute that the Sterling Citizens invoked was... enacted to protect the public from elected officials who misused their office,” Flannery said in a prepared statement. “The Court appointed an attorney earlier this year to prosecute this case who did not share that concern.”
Flannery added that “it took citizens of the County, appointed to the Grand Jury, to get the truth out about Supervisor Delgaudio. Plainly, it will now take the citizens at the voting polls to decide whether this is the kind of elected official we want representing our County.”
Stamos agreed with that sentiment in the conclusion of her motion to dismiss the case.
“Two years, hundreds of hours, and thousands of dollars have been spent investigating this matter,” Stamos wrote in her motion. “A much better use of the petitioners’ time-- and that of the lawyers who represent them — might well be to identify and recruit a candidate from Sterling to run against Mr. Delgaudio in the next election.”