Delgaudio censured, punished by colleagues on all-Republican board
This was largely the message Wednesday night from one of Delgaudio's colleagues on Loudoun's all-Republican Board of Supervisors, Ralph Buona (R-Ashburn), before the board voted to impose sanctions against the Sterling supervisor. After nearly three hours of debate, Delgaudio was formally censured by the board, stripped of any power to serve on standing committees or regional partnership organizations, and his Sterling District office funds were moved to a corporate board budget for the purposes of serving the Sterling residents under the direction and approval of the full board.
The punishments came as a result of a special grand jury investigation into allegations Delgaudio misused Loudoun County resources for personal and political gain. The grand jury, which concluded its investigation in late June, did not bring an indictment against Delgaudio, but did take the “extraordinary” step,” Buona said, of issuing a final overview recapping was discovered through the process.
For the first time publicly, Buona and other supervisors echoed the viewpoint of Delgaudio's detractors – the fact the embattled supervisor was not charged with a crime was because of a “technicality” more than anything else.
“You have to ask, 'Why did [the special grand jury] issue a report?'” Buona said. “ … In this particular case they went out of their way to request permission from a judge to issue a report. And why did they do that? Because they felt something was wrong, but they couldn't issue an indictment because of a technicality in the law. That technicality, we all know, deals with full-time versus part-time supervisors.”
Speaking in political terms, Buona said, “The integrity of my own Republican Party is at stake here. We have to police ourselves. We have to police our own ... Whether Eugene was a Democrat or a Republican, if I read this grand jury report, I would think the same thing. And I know there are some people in the Republican Party that are mad at some of us right now -- read the report. Just read the report.”
That report, which while not pinpointing criminal activity by Delgaudio, highlights testimony of a harsh working environment in the supervisor's office, a lack of focus on constituent services and a likely, but not blatant, misuse of county resources.
Witnesses before the jury testified that Delgaudio directed his legislative aides “not to answer the phones or address constituent concerns and instead focus on other priorities.” The witnesses also reported incidents in the office involving “acts of verbal abuse that on multiple occasions brought his aides to tears” and led to their departures.
In one instance, a witness told the jury Delgaudio's aides were told by their boss to report directly to an executive assistant of Public Advocate of the United States, a so-called conservative, nonprofit organization Delgaudio founded. Public Advocate has been designated an anti-gay “hate group” by the Southern Poverty Law Center.
A key point of the grand jury's summary states: Virginia code “criminalizes such action only for 'full-time' employees … Because Loudoun County pays a nominal salary to members of the Board of Supervisors there is a general expectation that Board of Supervisors have another source of income … "
The report “did not exonerate” Delgaudio, Buona said, “quite the contrary.”
Originally, the board intended Wednesday to take up the sanctions as one comprehensive item, but at the urging at Supervisor Geary Higgins (R-Catoctin), the disciplinary actions were taken up in separate votes. The votes to censure and keep Delgaudio off committees were 8-1, with only Delgaudio opposing. Higgins and Supervisor Janet Clarke (R-Blue Ridge) joined Delgaudio in voting against the measure to transfer the Sterling District's budget and eliminate his staff aide.
Despite Delgaudio's plea for an opportunity to defend himself – an opportunity he was clearly afforded when the board decided to discuss the matter in “committee of the whole,” meaning there were no time restrictions placed on supervisors' comments – most board members opined that the special grand jury served as the “due process” Delgaudio and his attorney have sought.
Delgaudio requested from his colleagues the formation of a Board of Supervisors ad hoc committee to examine the allegations spelled out in the grand jury report. That pitch, which eventually failed, was met with hostility by Supervisors Shawn Williams (R-Broad Run) and Matt Letourneau (R-Dulles).
Williams, the board's vice chair, at one point became visibly flustered at the prospect of an ad-hoc committee.
“I struggle with how that would be an effective remedy,” Williams said. “And there's another element of this too: This is enough. It's enough with this board. It's enough. We have business to do. We have things to do … We've had due process. We have all these findings.”
Said Letourneau: “Let's talk for a minute about the issue of an ad hoc committee versus the grand jury report … the weight we have to give in this report is far more substantial than any [three-member] panel process that the board can conduct.”
Letourneau pointed out that the special grand jury heard from more than 30 witnesses and examined more than 30 pieces of evidence over the course of its four-month investigation.
“None of us are going to be able to conduct an investigation that's anything as close to as thorough as what the [Arlington County] commonwealth attorney did,” he said.
Williams and Chairman Scott York (R-At Large) said they'll work to ensure the residents of the Sterling District aren't negatively impacted by the actions taken Wednesday. York pointed out that, as countywide chairman, all districts are his responsibility.