Update: Oct. 3, 12:55 p.m.
As expected, the Loudoun Board of Supervisiors voted unanimously Wednesday to launch an independent investigation into the allegations brought against Supervisor Eugene Delgaudio (R-Sterling); the allegations, including misuse of county resources and staff, have been reported in various media outlets, including the Washington Post.
Board Chairman Scott York (R-At Large) urged the public to remember that, in America, you are “innocent until proven guilty.” That said, York noted that he takes the complaints from the former aides of Delgaudio serious and expects the board to take the necessary action should wrongdoings come to light.
Original story: Oct. 3, 10:10 a.m.
One may wonder if Loudoun County Supervisor Eugene Delgaudio has gotten much sleep in the past week or two.
On Sept. 26, a same-sex couple whose picture was used in an anti-gay political mailer sent out by Delgaudio’s nonprofit organization, Public Advocate of the United States, filed a federal lawsuit against the nonprofit.
This came less than 24 hours after a story published in The Washington Post claimed that several former county aides of Delgaudio believed they were tasked with unethical political duties while working for the controversial supervisor.
The Post story alleges the aides spent hours as county employees raising funds for Delgaudio’s political campaign.
Loudoun County policy dictates that political activity must not occur using county property or during county paid time, according to a county spokesperson.
Complaints and concerns are piling up against Delgaudio, the four-term Sterling supervisor. It was in March when news was widely reported, first by the Loudoun Times-Mirror, that Public Advocate had been designated an anti-gay “hate group” by the Southern Poverty Law Center. In June news broke of the Colorado mailers – and threats of a lawsuit soon followed. Now with political observers honing in on his work as an elected official, calls for the Sterling supervisor’s resignation from local Democrats have only intensified.
County officials address allegations
On Oct. 2, for the first time since The Washington Post story was published, county officials confirmed they’d been aware for months of the allegations revolving around Delgaudio’s aides and potential misuse of county resources.
“When the board’s leadership team was made aware of these allegations against Supervisor Delgaudio, we asked that the complaint filed against Mr. Delgaudio be given to the Loudoun County Commonwealth Attorney Jim Plowman for review,” reads a statement from the county’s public information office. “Mr. Plowman then referred the matter to the Commonwealth Attorney’s office in Arlington for an independent assessment. Based on the information provided at that time, the Arlington Commonwealth Attorney did not recommend pursuing any charges against Mr. Delgaudio.”
According to a county spokesperson, the term “leadership team” in the statement means board Chairman Scott York (R-At Large) and Vice Chairman Janet Clarke (R-Blue Ridge). York and Clarke first learned of the allegations in March, the spokesperson said.
York was expected Oct. 3 to request a board vote on whether to conduct an independent investigation into the allegations of misconduct by Delgaudio. Further, York will ask that the board have the Finance, Government Services and Operations Committee do a thorough review of all board aide policies.
The story also alleged that the FBI is inquiring about Delgaudio’s actions. The county statement, however, notes that the board, the county administrator and the county attorney have not been contacted by the FBI.
“Regardless of any ongoing investigation by an outside party, it is imperative that this board investigate this matter to ensure the integrity of the Board of Supervisors, and take action if a member of the board has violated those standards,” the county statement reads.
Federal lawsuit against Delgaudio’s nonprofit
In June, Public Advocate sent out political pamphlets in Colorado that used an altered image of a same-sex couple, Tom Privitere and Brian Edwards, kissing. Verbiage was added to the image stating, “State Senator Jean White’s idea of family values?” The campaign propaganda was for a state Senate race that featured White, a supporter of civil unions, in the Republican primary.
After learning of the mailers, the couple quickly announced they were considering legal action, which was eventually filed Sept. 26. During a conference call with Privitere, Edwards, photographer Kristina Hill and an SPLC representative, the two men called for Delgaudio to apologize and own up to his mistake.
“My name is Brian Edwards, and my husband, Tom Privitere, and I are here today to take back the beautiful moment in our lives that was reflected in our engagement photo before it was hijacked by a hate group,” Edwards said on the call.
The original image’s copyright belongs to Hill, who shot the celebratory photos of the New Jersey couple.
The lawsuit lists Edwards, Privitere and Hills as plaintiffs and Public Advocate as the defendant. Representatives from the SPLC undersigned the complaint, which alleges the couple’s photo was stolen and misappropriated.
“Now, instead of representing love, the photo represents the hatred and discrimination that gay people must still endure in our society,” Christine Sun, an SPLC attorney, said. “... We’re asking primarily for a few things: one is a declaration that Public Advocate’s acts were illegal, and also we are asking for monetary damages which will be proven as filed.”
The engagement photo was stolen off the couple’s personal blog, according to Edwards.
SPLC sent Delgaudio a cease and desist letter in July. Sun said they did not receive a response from Delgaudio or anyone from Public Advocate.
Delgaudio has been largely silent in addressing the charges directly. In June, he said he doesn’t have time to respond “to every allegation groups bring against” him.
Delgaudio did not immediately return calls Oct. 2.
As the Times-Mirror reported in March, Public Advocate’s classification as a “hate group” by the SPLC, an internationally recognized civil rights nonprofit, was based on research compiled through hate group publications and websites, citizen and law enforcement reports, field sources and news reports.
According to the SPLC, “all hate groups have beliefs or practices that attack or malign an entire class of people, typically for their immutable characteristics.”
Delgaudio founded Public Advocate in 1981.
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