Almost a year after the work started, Sterling District residents have filed a recall petition in Loudoun Circuit Court seeking to oust Supervisor Eugene Delgaudio (R-Sterling) from office.
Monday afternoon attorney John Flannery filed the petition on behalf of "Citizens of Sterling," as listed on the court docket. A show cause hearing has been scheduled for 4 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 5.
Sources confirmed the petition filing Monday evening, saying it has 686 signatures from Sterling District residents. Flannery's filing also included several exhibits in support of the petition. The petitioners also have requested the court disqualify the Loudoun and Arlington commonwealth's attorneys and appoint independent counsel to represent Sterling residents in the case. Flannery said Tuesday that typically the commonwealth's attorney would take over the case from a private attorney, prompting the request.
Loudoun Commonwealth's Attorney Jim Plowman recused himself from the original case and Arlington Commonwealth's Attorney Theo Stamos oversaw the grand jury investigation.
A press conference on the filing was held this morning in the boardroom of the county government center in Leesburg. Al Nevarez, Delgaudio’s 2011 opponent in the supervisors race and one of the leaders of the recall effort, said the ultimate goal is to "give Sterling better representation."
"There are improvements approved through bond that have never been submitted to the budget," Nevarez said Tuesday. "...we are not being served properly."
Under the state statute, the recall petition needed at least 558 signatures—equal to 10 percent of the number voting in the 2011 election—to seek the removal of an elected official. Sources also say the leaders of the group of community organizers formed under a group called Sterling Deserves Better, expect few of the signatures will be rejected by the court since they were obtained "at the homes of verified voters."
Indeed, in May, Nevarez said the group worked to ensure all signatures would be accepted.
“We know that Delgaudio’s counsel is going to try to remove signatures, even though we went door to door and got those from registered voters,” Nevarez said in May. “We are ensuring that we have a large enough number so that even with some of that legal trickery you are still going to have enough people to get the petition through.”
Flannery said the citizens group "did not want to confound what they were doing with any election going on at the time...This is about nothing but good governance."
State law allows the Circuit Court to remove an elected official “for neglect of duty, misuse of office, or 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.” Delgaudio will have 10 days to respond before the court will decide whether to schedule a trial on the matter.
Messages left with Delgaudio and his attorney have not yet been returned.
The one recall petition previously was filed in Loudoun, but was unsuccessful.
This recall petition effort began in February 2013, after a grand jury investigation was launched into allegations Delgaudio's used his county staff aides to set up meetings to solicit political donations. In May, the petition had enough signatures, according to organizers, but they were not yet prepared to file.
In June, the grand jury investigation concluded, and while the it issued a report raising questions about Delgaudio's actions, it brought no criminal charges--primarily because supervisors are considered part-time legislators and Virginia law dealing with misuse of county resources applies only to full-time employees. An effort by the Board of Supervisors and members of Loudoun's delegation to the General Assembly to change the Virginia State Code to apply the law more broadly recently died in a House of Delegates subcommittee.
The Board of Supervisors did censure Delgaudio, stripping him of his committee assignments and taking control of his county office budget.
"The Board of Supervisors limited his ability as much as they could to do anything wrong," Flannery said, but added the recall petition provided the best remedy for citizens.