The saga continues in Loudoun County for those seeking to
remove Supervisor Eugene Delgaudio (R-Sterling) from office as a citizen group
that includes Delgaudio’s most recent opponent filed a recall petition this
week in Loudoun Circuit Court. A judge has ordered Delgaudio to appear.
The group Sterling Deserves Better, which includes Al Nevarez, who ran against Delgaudio in 2011, filed the recall petition because of dissatisfaction with other disciplinary measures.
“We all truly believe this is our best chance to make a difference or the better in Sterling’s representation on the Board of Supervisors,” Nevarez said during a press conference at the County Government Building in Leesburg Tuesday morning.
For many, the ordeal came to a close earlier this month when Delgaudio received a committee assignment on the board after being removed from committees last year, one of a series of disciplinary actions the board took.
Accusations against Delgaudio include that he misused his office for political gain and that he blurred the lines between his county office and his work heading up Public Advocate of the United States, a conservative group that opposes gay marriage and taxes, among other things. Public Advocate has been labeled a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center.
While some have called the move a long shot, attorney John P. Flannery, who filed the petition on behalf of the group, disagreed.
“There are some who think than an elected officials can only be removed for some criminal offense,” Flannery said. “But that’s not true.”
The accusations center primarily on former Delgaudio staffer Donna Mateer, who claims she was asked to set up campaign fundraising meetings for the supervisor and report to an employee with Public Advocate.
Delgaudio has denied breaking any laws. A grand jury that investigated the matter was not asked to consider charges against Delgaudio by the special prosecutor assigned to the case, but did take the unusual step of issuing a report highlighting their concerns.
After the grand jury wrapped up its case, the Loudoun Board of Supervisors stripped Delgaudio of his committee assignments and took control of his managerial district budget.
Flannery said Mateer still feels she has not had the opportunity to present her side of the story in an open forum, unlike the grand jury format in which Flannery said she felt “intimidated.”
“She’d like her day in court to tell her side of the story,” Flannery said, adding that the courts would still provide Delgaudio an opportunity to respond. “Someone would want to test that on cross examination. The way to do that would be a hearing or a trial.”
Charles King, an attorney representing Delgaudio in the case, said the petition is an attempt to force his client unfairly from office, rather than using the democratic process.
"The folks who filed this petition should be reminded of the old adage to be careful what you wish for," King said late Tuesday. "As President of Public Advocate, Supervisor Delgaudio takes clearly provocative views on national social and family issues. If you disagree with him strongly, use the political process, not a slap suit."
At one point, Delgaudio planned to fight the Loudoun board’s disciplinary actions, but instead dropped that fight and apologized for causing “embarrassment” to the board.
Of the current filing, King said, “I do not believe the petition will get very far. Many of the allegations involve subjective questions of temperament best decided by the voters of Sterling, not a Circuit Court judge."
But Flannery disagreed.
“Plainly, this removal statue 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,” he said.
The parties will now await a response from the circuit court.