Local Democrats have made good on their promise to navigate through official avenues to remove controversial Loudoun County Supervisor Eugene Delgaudio (R-Sterling) from office; Leesburg attorney and active Democrat John Flannery filed a recall petition against Mr. Delgaudio in Loudoun County late Monday afternoon.
The petition, organized through an activist group called Sterling Deserves Better, presents the signatures of more than 680 Sterling district voters – well more than the minimum amount needed – pressing for a recall of Mr. Delgaudio.
Loudoun County Circuit Court issued a "rule to show cause" Tuesday morning, meaning Mr. Delgaudio must exhibit "why he shouldn't be removed from office," Mr. Flannery told the Times-Mirror. Essentially, the attorney noted, the petitioners have provided enough evidence making it necessary for the supervisor to respond to the complaint.
“We've crossed the first hurdle,” said Mr. Flannery.
A hearing has been set for Feb. 5 at 4 p.m., though that date could be delayed if the local commonwealth's attorney and judges opt to recuse themselves.
"We have had a history that makes this a credible request of the court to remove a public official," Mr. Flannery said at a press conference Tuesday.
Included within this history is an abuse and misuse of public office and a sweeping incompetence in serving his constituents, Mr. Flannery and other outspoken Democrats claimed.
Mr. Delgaudio, who was elected to a fourth term in 2011, was the subject of a special grand jury investigation in 2013 for allegations he misused public assets, including using county resources to raise funds for his non-profit organization, Public Advocate of the United States, a conservative organization that consistently speaks out against the LGBT community and has been labeled an "anti-gay hate group" by the Southern Poverty Law Center.
While the special grand jury did not return an indictment, it took the "extraordinary step" of issuing a report detailing its findings, Loudoun Supervisor Ralph Buona (R-Ashburn) said last summer, just before the all-Republican board voted to censure Mr. Delgaudio, strip him of any committee powers and take his district budget out of his control.
The grand jury report highlighted testimony of a harsh working environment in Mr. Delgaudio's office, including verbal harassment from the supervisor, a lack of constituent services and a likely, though not blatant, misuse of public funds.
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 ... "
Mr. Delgaudio has denied any wrongdoing. In an email Tuesday night the supervisor said Sterling “is getting the best Sterling District Supervisor possible right now -- and every day.”
“A former losing liberal candidate is in the media again, today, unhappy with my four times re-election success as Sterling Supervisor,” Mr. Delgaudio noted.
Charles King, an attorney representing Mr. Delgaudio, described the allegations as "a long reach under the statute."
"Although I welcome the opportunity to try Supervisor Delguadio's case, I do not believe the petition will get very far," Mr. King said in a prepared statement.
Section 24.2-233(1) of the Virginia Code provides that “any elected officer” may be removed “for [a] neglect of duty, [b ] misuse of office, or [c] incompetence in the performance of duties when that neglect of duty, misuse of office, or incompetence in the performance of duties has a material adverse effect upon the conduct of the office ... "
Mr. Flannery commented, "Plainly, this removal statute contemplates that an elected official’s conduct can be so egregious and his misconduct so damaging to the purpose and process of good government, that limiting the official’s conduct in office and requiring the citizens to wait until the next election, is not a fair and just remedy."
The Democratic activists said during the press conference they want a transparent and comprehensive forum to debate and judge the actions of Mr. Delgaudio.
"Due process isn't just a word. It basically means fundamental fairness, and if you want to have a full and fair and right result, then transparency is important," Mr. Flannery said. "'This is our argument, this is your argument and let's have it.'"
Sterling Deserves Better officials said they filed the petition Monday, rather than several months ago when the petition was finalized, to show that the only interest they have is "good government" and not swaying the outcomes of any recently concluded elections.
Read past coverage here:
-Delgaudio censured, punished by colleagues on all-Republican board
This story has been updated from an earlier version.