|Loudoun County Supervisors Geary Higgins (R-Catoctin) and Janet Clarke (R-Blue Ridge) voted against the most severe punishment for Supervisor Eugene Delgaudio (R-Sterling). Photos Courtesy/Facebook|
Embattled Loudoun County Supervisor Eugene Delgaudio wasn't alone on an island when he took a scolding from some of his colleagues July 17; instead, several seats to his right sat Supervisors Geary Higgins and Janet Clarke, pleading for more “due process” and less sanctions against their controversial colleague.
Both Clarke (R-Blue Ridge) and Higgins (R-Catoctin) supported a motion from Delgaudio to create a board ad hoc committee to examine the findings of a special grand jury that investigated Delgaudio for improperly using public resources. That motion failed to earn majority support for the board.
According to the grand jury's June 24 report, the information for which was collected from testimony under oath, there is circumstantial evidence supporting that Delgaudio used Loudoun County resources for political campaigning in 2011 and 2012.
The report states Delgaudio directed a Loudoun County legislative aide to set up appointments with individuals from a political donor list, and that Delgaudio directed his county aides to report directly to the executive assistant for Public Advocate of the United States, a “conservative” nonprofit advocacy group known for its staunch anti-gay propaganda.
Commenting on the report, Board Vice Chair Shawn Williams (R-Broad Run) said, “It is clear that Mr. Delgaudio was assigning his staff aides to set up meetings for the purposes of political fundraising.”
So it was a natural move for the six supervisors who voted to severely restrict Delgaudio's authority to oversee his district's more than $100,000 annual budget.
But Higgins and Clarke opposed any restrictions on the Sterling District budget.
Higgins, during the meeting, said he's “very disappointed” and “concerned” about the allegations against Delgaudio, but he voiced that Delgaudio's side of the story hasn't been heard.
“I'm not interested in prolonging the agony here any longer than necessary,” Higgins said. “But I do believe in due process.”
During the July 17 meeting, Delgaudio was allotted unlimited time to address the grand jury's findings, which he called allegations. He didn't do so.
Why did Higgins vote to let the Sterling District funds remain under Delgaudio's control?
“I will not support stripping the Sterling election district of its resources unless the board sets out to gather all the facts and allow Mr. Delgaudio to respond to the allegations,” Higgins said.
Under the board's budget restriction, all Sterling district funds were moved into a corporate board budget account and “will be held for the purposes of serving the Sterling residents under the direction and approval of the Board of Supervisors until Dec. 31, 2015.” “All expenses for the Sterling District must be approved by formal action of the board,” with the exception of smaller expenses like office supplies and cellphone and iPad data usage, according to the motion.
Higgins today said he wasn't as opposed to restricting Delgaudio's budget as he was eliminating the Sterling District legislative aides. With no Sterling office aides, Higgins said he doesn't understand how the district's residents can receive the services they need, especially if they have a complaint.
“That punishes the residents of Sterling, not Mr. Delgaudio,” Higgins said. He pointed out that his proposal July 17, which did not earn the board's support, would've kept aides for Sterling, but under the condition that other board members or staff sign off on their time cards.
Supervisors who favored eliminating staff aides for Delgaudio said it was necessary, considering Delgaudio's use of county-paid assistants is what prompted the controversy and the investigation.
Clarke too said she would've preferred the board create a committee specifically to examine the grand jury's findings and offer Delgaudio more opportunity to comment on the report. The Blue Ridge supervisor mostly echoed Higgins' comments, saying she didn't want the sanctions to disadvantage the residents of Sterling.
On the issue of staff aides, Clarke said she didn't fault Delgaudio's assistants, but rather the supervisor himself.
"It was the direction provided to them that was the problem. It was not necessarily their fault," she said.
This story has been updated from a previous version.