A recall petition case that seeks to remove Loudoun County Supervisor Eugene Delgaudio from office will continue in court in May, with Arlington County Commonwealth’s Attorney Theo Stamos representing the Sterling voters who filed the petition.
At a status conference Tuesday in Loudoun County Circuit Court, retired Arlington County Circuit Court Judge Paul Sheridan — who was appointed to preside over the matter after Loudoun Circuit Court judges recused themselves — confirmed that Stamos would represent the petitioners, and agreed to give attorneys on both sides several weeks to review evidence and testimony gathered during a criminal investigation of Delgaudio (R-Sterling) last year.
The petition, signed by 686 voters and filed in January, makes numerous allegations against Delgaudio, including “neglect of duty,” “misuse of office” and blurring the lines between the work of his public office and his nonprofit organization, Public Advocate of the United States, which campaigns against gay rights. The accusations are based largely on evidence that arose from the criminal investigation launched after a former staff aide complained that Delgaudio used his public office to benefit his political campaign.
Delgaudio was not indicted as a result of the investigation that concluded last year. But a grand jury took the unusual step of releasing a report outlining numerous alleged problems with Delgaudio’s conduct in office, and suggesting that the supervisor eluded criminal charges in part because Virginia law states that the use of public assets for personal or political gain is only illegal for “full-time” employees. Delgaudio has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing.
At the hearing Tuesday, Sheridan ruled that Stamos would prosecute the case over the objection of attorney John Flannery, who represents the Sterling petitioners and filed a motion Friday aiming to disqualify Stamos as prosecutor.
In the motion, Flannery argued that Stamos “did not want to accept the appointment” and “did not believe the Citizens should try to remove an elected official from office for misconduct except by means of a regularly scheduled election,” citing comments made in conversations with Stamos.
But Sheridan questioned Flannery’s choice to include “candid comments” in a motion, and said Stamos’s integrity and ability to handle the complicated and politically-charged case was well established.
“If I had a commonwealth attorney that wanted the case, I’d question their common sense,” Sheridan said.
Sheridan said the “integrity of the process” was important on all sides, and he noted that he had “a special ability to evaluate” Stamos because he had watched her work for years in Arlington.
“She’s open, honest and frank,” Sheridan said. “She’s going to stay.”
In a series of rulings, Sheridan decided to allow both Stamos and Delgaudio’s attorney, Charles King, to review testimony and evidence from the sealed grand jury investigation last year; to limit the scope of the case to the allegations specifically enumerated in the petition; and to quash the majority of requests included in a series of subpoenas issued by King against certain petitioners.
Those subpoenas — some seeking documents including tax records and cellphone and e-mail records — were “abusive,” Flannery alleged, arguing that they were not intended to seek evidence but “only to vex and harass these individuals.”
King maintained that he had a right to review all alleged evidence against his client, and said he had no other way to obtain the relevant records: “All I have to investigate this case is the power of subpoenas,” he said.
Sheridan said many of King’s requests were “too broad,” but ordered certain documents directly related to the petitions’ allegations be produced by April 11.
At the end of the hearing, Stamos addressed the concern about her appointment as prosecutor directly, noting that her duty as dictated by the Virginia Supreme Court was “to further the best interest of the commonwealth” rather than that of any individual parties.
“Bombast and vitriol are not substitutes for fact,” she said, adding that although Delgaudio’s public comments about members of the LGBT community might be distasteful, “they will not inform our decision-making about the law.”
The petition case will continue at a status conference at 11 a.m. May 6 in Loudoun County Circuit Court.