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    From the Archives: Self-imposed ethics code unlikely for new board

    Reporter’s note, Dec. 2, 2012:
    In light of recent allegations against Supervisor Eugene Delgaudio (R-Sterling) regarding the misuse of county resources for political fundraising, the topic of an ethics pledge has been brought up from board critics.

    In early January, the Times-Mirror spoke with several supervisors regarding the ethics code signed by members of the previous board, Delgaudio excluded. Below is the story, originally posted on Jan. 10, 2012.

    ***

    Self-imposed ethics code unlikely for new supervisors

    In 2008, eight of the nine recently-elected Loudoun County supervisors signed an ethics pledge as they embarked on a new four years.

    Drawn up by former Blue Ridge District Supervisor Jim Burton, an independent, the code of ethics was enacted amid allegations of pay-to-play politics and corruption in Loudoun County government. Burton pushed the measure as a way to restore the public’s trust and confidence in the board.

    But, in essence, the pledge was “all about show,” said Chairman Scott York (R-At Large) during an interview Jan. 9.

    Though he gave his signature to the 2008 document, York said there are no immediate plans for the newly-elected supervisors to compose a comparable policy.

    “What we essentially did is put [in] a system which we signed, it was not law, this is just a pledge,” York said. “Again, there is no enforcement.”

    Sections of the 2008 pledge include making “no private promises of any kind binding upon the duties of any office, since a public servant has no private word which be binding on public duty,” and avoiding “even the appearance of a conflict of interest. A member should recuse himself or herself from participating in deliberations or voting on issues which might be perceived as rendering direct personal or professional gain ...”

    Whether the new board is required to sign a local ethics code this year, the chairman bluntly said, “No.”

    “I expect high ethics by all board members … Since I served on the planning commission, my time from ‘92 on,” York said, “I’ve strived to live a high ethics as a politician.”

    Eugene Delgaudio (R-Sterling), the lone supervisor who declined to sign the 2008 pledge, said Burton’s proposal was unnecessary.

    “I didn’t sign it intentionally,” Delgaudio said. “This was a political ploy from pretentious liberals.”

    Of the ethics code, both York and Delgaudio said there were no real means of enforcement.

    “Actions speak louder than words,” Delgaudio said. “We have a lot of disclosures and various ethics statements to submit. It’s a lot of work.”

    Elected officials in Virginia are subject to statewide ethics, campaign disclosure and conflict-of-interest laws, primarily legislation from Sen. Mark Herring (D-33rd). But how close attention supervisors have paid to these in the past was – and continues to be – a question for Loudoun County government observers.

    While state law dictates elected officials can’t accept money, loans, gifts or favors that “reasonably tends to influence him in the performance of his official duties,” it doesn’t prohibit “any political contribution actually used for political campaign or constituent service purposes.”

    According to York, “The law is that no board members can receive contributions above $100 from any particular entity that is before [the Board of Supervisors].”

    York said, for example, last month he and two colleagues excused themselves from a vote on account of the Herring law.

    Janet Clarke (R-Blue Ridge), the board’s vice-chair, while not commenting directly on the 2008 pledge said “the Board of Supervisors, just like other elected bodies, is governed by ethics laws incumbent with positions we were elected to serve in.”

    Echoing Clarke’s sentiment, Supervisor Shawn Williams (R-Dulles) said he doesn’t see the necessity of taking additional measures beyond the sufficient ethics and legislative rules already on the books. Williams expressed confidence the 2012 board will maintain the highest of ethical standards.

    “I’ll recuse myself from potential conflicts of interest and comply with all legislative disclosure laws,” he added.

    As for the public perception – how it strikes constituents that the supervisors aren’t implementing a new ethics pledge – Williams, an attorney, says he thinks “it is implied” elected officials follow the rules.

    “If someone asserts anything different,” he says, “then they are just trying to stir up controversy with no legitimate grounds.”

    ***

    Comments

    Is “pretentious” a synonym for “ethical?” LOL, we need an entire ‘Delgaudio to English’ dictionary.

    The only reason for not adopting a code of ethics is that a public body does not want to acknowledge, and therefore have foremost in the public’s consciousness, the things that the public body should not be doing. Yes, it is so very pretentious to assure the public that they understand their obligations to us.


    Why does it not surprise me, that this all-Republican board won’t sign a new pledge ?  Forget legal for a second.  Forget “actions speak louder than words” hyperbole.  It used to be, that a man or woman’s word was sufficient in gaining or maintaining trust.  But, like true lawyers that some of these board members are, they immediately play the “law card”.  “What we essentially did is put [in] a system which we signed, it was not law, this is just a pledge,” York said. “Again, there is no enforcement.”  So, right away, York is only worried about enforcing something, rather than just DOING it.  From this public voter’s point of view, had they signed it, then I would have had the satisfaction of knowing, that if they broke that pledge down the road, then at least they could be called liars.  I guess it’s obvious then, why they didn’t sign it.


    Sorry, I’m not as fluent in Delgaudio as I should be.  Is “pretentious” a synonym for “ethical?”  That particular clown’s circus has left town and now he’s walking around wondering why no one’s taking him seriously.  Careful with that ax, Eugene!


    oranges869: My organization would be interested in the proof you have of those allegations. Please contact us.

    Stevens Miller
    Exec. Director
    Real Advocate PAC


    Let Theo Stamos be the judge of ethic violations and legitimate grounds. I think it’s more likely implied that elected officals make back room deals and use zoning exceptions, proffers and expediting pet projects at public expense.

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