A special grand jury and the prosecutor investigating allegations Loudoun County Supervisor Eugene Delgaudio (R-Sterling) abused public office won't seek indictments against Delgaudio, according to the jury's report released today.
Through the jury's four-month investigation it met with at least 31 witnesses – including Loudoun County Board of Supervisors Chairman Scott York (R-At Large) – and reviewed at least 36 pieces of evidence.
Delgaudio, first elected in 1999, was accused of using his Loudoun County office and other county resources for political fundraising.
The special grand jury's report, while not pinpointing criminal activity by Delgaudio, highlights testimony of a potentially harsh working environment in the Sterling supervisor's office, a lack of focus on constituent services and a likely, but not blatant, misuse of county resources.
“At the conclusion of the investigation [Arlington Commonwealth's Attorney Theo Stamos, whose office was in charge of the investigation] informed the jury that she would not ask the jury to consider any indictments,” a summary of the report states. “As such, the jury never deliberated to consider whether it would indict Supervisor Delgaudio, the original focus of the investigation, or any other individual.”
Stamos' examination was sparked in September 2012 when one of Delgaudio's former legislative aides, Donna Mateer, made the allegations against the Sterling supervisor through a story in the Washington Post.
The special grand jury report does not necessarily clear Delgaudio of wrongdoing. It states: “While the jury cannot speak for [Stamos], we believe that at least one significant reason that the jury not asked to return an indictment is a result of limitations imposed by the Code of Virginia.
“This report summarizes evidence that suggests the misuse of public assets may have occurred within Supervisor Delgaudio's office between Fall 2011 and Spring 2012 and explains why such misuse may not be criminal in this instance.”
A silent Delgaudio
The oft-outspoken and colorful Delgaudio would not answer questions Monday afternoon at a press conference he called. Instead, he issued a brief statement and turned the forum over to his attorney Charles King, who said he recommended Delgaudio not field questions.
In a prepared statement, Delgaudio said: “I'm thankful this long process is now over … If there is a lesson here, it is that we should attempt to settle our political differences civilly and through political debate, not by attempting to diminish one's opponent by falsely accusing them of misconduct.
“I am proud of Sterling and I will continue to improve the lives of the residents of Sterling,” he said.
The special grand jury's report
The jury's 13-page overview, while not spelling out blatant criminal activity, paints a picture of a cutting work environment for some of Delgaudio's legislative aides.
Several witnesses told the jury of incidents in the office involving “acts of verbal abuse that on multiple occasions brought his aides to tears” and led to their departures.
The report explicitly states there may have been a potential misuse of county resources.
Yet while there was “testimony that supports at least a circumstantial assertion of misuse of public assets,” the report 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 states.
It continues: “Consequently, additional avenues of potential investigation were ultimately dropped when it was determined that criminal charges would not be filed based on the use of the term 'full-time' in the Code of Virginia. In the Recommendations section, the jury strongly urges a change to this statute.”
Witnesses before the special grand jury also testified that Delgaudio directed aides “not to answer the phones or address constituent concerns and instead focus on other priorities ...”
Delgaudio's attorney King dismissed the hostile workplace claim by saying the employees who complained about the office environment “left under circumstances one would expect a former employee to be unhappy about.”
Of constituent services, King said “the main reason one of the nation's most conservative public officials continues to win re-election in a district where demographically he shouldn't is because Supervisor Delgaudio makes constituent service priority one.”
Opponents react, plan to petition
The Loudoun County Democratic Committee said it's not surprised at the outcome of the case. As such, members of the committee will be serving petitions to the circuit court “very soon” for the court to consider removing Delgaudio from office.
“The Sterling residents find this disgraceful and shameful, but not unexpected,” Val Suzdak, secretary for the Loudoun County Democratic Committee, said immediately after the findings. “We anticipated justice would not be served despite blatant misuse of office and corruption ...”
Suzdak estimated the more than 700 signatures on the petition – more than the required amount – will be delivered to the circuit court within the next few weeks. At that point, according to Suzdak and attorney Stevens Miller, a former Loudoun supervisor, the circuit court would send the petition for removal to Loudoun Commonwealth's Attorney Jim Plowman, who presumably would send the matter elsewhere as he did with the now-concluded investigation to avoid conflict of interest.
Miller, who formerly represented Mateer and serves as executive director for the anti-Delgaudio political action committee, Real Advocate, said he respects the grand jury's decision not to pursue an indictment.
But Miller also opined that had Stamos asked for an indictment, there's a chance she could've gotten one. “That's where our disappointment lies – the grand jury put a long time into this and they weren't allowed to make their own decision and that's too bad,” he noted.
“We think it's particularly significant that their report indicates that the grand jury was not allowed to deliberate on the question,” Miller said. “… it is absolutely not a finding that clears Mr. Delgaudio in any way.”
Miller pointed out the report calls for changes to Loudoun County policy and state law to tighten prohibitions against possible political fundraising from elected officials.
“We know by watching Mr. Delgaudio, he's a master wiggler,” said Miller. “He's found the wiggle room in the statutes that would let a master wiggler wiggle free one more time.
Speaking to the Times-Mirror
after the report's release, Stamos made clear she did not believe there was enough evidence presented to show Delgaudio broke any existing statutes.
Grand jury's recommendations
Recommendations in the special grand jury's report include:
-That the Virginia General Assembly amend the “misuse of public assets” statute so that it applies to anyone that works for or is elected to any government body in the commonwealth.
-That Loudoun County administration create a written process by which Loudoun supervisors' aides can inquire as to the legality of any tasks assigned to them.
-That the Virginia General Assembly form a committee to research and amend the Virginia Campaign Finance Disclosure Act of 2006.
-That Loudoun County staff and the board modify policies for the Board of Supervisors' aides to ensure an unbiased third-party review occurs of any outside employment or political activities.
This story has been updated from an earlier version.
Read past coverage here:
-"Chairman York appeared before special grand jury in Delgaudio case"
-- May 31, 2013
-"Sterling group forms to petition for Delgaudio’s removal"
-- Feb. 15, 2013
-"Supervisors vote Williams vice chair, Delgaudio off committees"
-- Jan. 2, 2013
-"County releases letter on Delgaudio investigation"
-- Nov. 14, 2012