In 2007, Loudoun County’s reputation was in tatters. The Washington Post published a series of articles that called into question the ethics of the Republican Board of Supervisors. There were allegations of corruption and first-hand reports of an FBI investigation. This was not a pleasant time to call Loudoun County home.
At the time, as Voters Services Chair of the Loudoun League of Women Voters, I began to work on a committee that included Supervisor Jim Burton and his wife Lina Burton and Senator Mark Herring. We drafted a Code of Ethics that the Board of Supervisors could adopt to increase the public trust. I don’t need to agree with every decision my elected officials make, but as a taxpayer and voter I expect the highest standards of ethics.
It was a great day for Loudoun County in 2008 when eight members of the newly-elected Board of Supervisors voted to adopt the ethics pledge. It was a statement that the County would hold itself to the highest standards. The Code of Ethics passed with bi-partisan support. Supervisor Lori Waters, a Republican, championed it. Chairman Scott York strongly supported it. Every Democrat supported the ethics pledge. Eugene Delgaudio, a Republican, was the only member to not vote in favor of a Code of Ethics.
Fast forward to 2012 and we have a new Board of Supervisors and a new set of unpleasant allegations suggesting Supervisor Delgaudio has misused County resources for his political benefit. But prior to Delgaudio’s alleged unethical behavior becoming public this new Board of Supervisors decided to take Loudoun County backwards, by moving to set aside the Code of Ethics. In January of this year, Chairman Scott York called the ethics pledge “all about show.” Supervisor Delgaudio said that “actions speak louder than words.”
As someone who has voted for Republicans and Democrats, including Chairman York, I agree that actions speak louder than words. And sometimes inaction tells another story. This Board’s deliberate refusal to pass an ethics pledge has set the stage, again, for a Loudoun County government that does not adhere to the strongest, self-imposed set of ethics.
It’s my hope that Chairman York and his colleagues will use this crisis to act and state unequivocally that it supports transparent and ethical government. The Board can start by adopting the Code of Ethics many of us worked so hard on a bi-partisan basis to implement.