Weasel words from the Board on Delgaudio

Still marveling at the weasel words, logical contortions, shuffling evasions, lame excuses, and defensive temporizing that has characterized the all-Republican Loudoun Board of Supervisors’ response to date to the now-irrefutable evidence of fraudulent financial finagling and ethical misconduct by fellow GOP supervisor Eugene Delgaudio (R-Sterling).

We’re still waiting for any of the supervisors, Chairman Scott York (R-At Large) in particular, to utter a simple, clear, statement of moral condemnation of Delgaudio.

For almost a year now we’ve had excuse upon excuse for inaction.

First York said there was nothing that could be done about Delgaudio’s abuse of his staff aides, his firing one of them in retaliation for her complaint about Delgaudio’s illegal conduct, or about any of the evidence she provided, since supervisors’ aides aren’t covered by the county’s employee policies and protections.

Then he said he did not have all the facts.

Then he said the Board could not even gather the facts, since the special grand jury was investigating the matter.

Now that the grand jury has issued its scathing report, finding that Delgaudio abused his staff, neglected his most basic duties as a supervisor, misused his office and taxpayer expense funds to engage in private fundraising, and possibly accepted illegal unreported cash bribes, the Board still is unable to utter the simple words to express their disapproval of their fellow GOP supervisor.

Most nauseating of all was the defensive blustering by the very businesslike Ralph Buona (R-Ashburn), who broke his sphinklike silence last week to insist that the Board had already taken action by adopting a new rule last fall forbidding supervisors’ aides to accept outside employment to work on the supervisor’s election campaign or private businesses. How businesslike, indeed, to blame the employees and make them responsible for the failures of management! That would be like the Catholic Church claiming it had fully responded to the sexual abuse scandal by sternly admonishing children not to have sex with priests (at least while off church property).

In any case, the actual problem that Delgaudio’s behavior underscored was not that aides were confused about what they could do outside of the office: the problem was that Delgaudio was directly ordering them to spend taxpayers’ time inside the county offices doing work for his outside anti-gay hate group and hitting up campaign donors. Buona’s self-congratulatory insistence that the Board had addressed the problem was not even a case of shutting the barn door after the horse bolted: it was shutting the tiny upstairs window in the hayloft of the building next door after the horse has bolted. It does not even begin to address the underlying problems of ethical laxness and slipshod practices that this Board itself is 100% accountable and responsible for.

Back in January 2012, York derisively dismissed the idea of even renewing the previous Board’s ethics policy, disdainfully calling it “all about show” and claiming that any ethics rules were unenforceable and unnecessary since — this is a direct quote — “I expect high ethics from all Board members.” Well, we saw how that worked out — about as well as if the sheriff department announced it would not bother enforcing the law or penalties against speeding because it “expects highly responsible driving from all drivers.”

As a first step, the Board needs to drop the weasel words and bureaucratic evasions and condemn Delgaudio’s actions in plain, simple English.

As for York’s absurd claim that ethics standards are “unenforceable,” the simple truth is that they are unenforceable only as long as the Board refuses to enforce any ethics standards. The Board can for starters pass a formal motion of censure against Delgaudio. More to the point, since Delgaudio has blatantly and irrefutably misused office funds — ordering his aides to ignore constituent service, forbidding them to attend routine staff meetings with all of the Board’s aides, and instead spend their time raising bucks for Eugene Delgaudio — it can take away his office expense and travel funds, completely, for the remainder of his (hopefully short) time in office as a fully appropriate punishment. (Aside from using his aides to carry out personal and political business, Delgaudio has also funneled thousands of dollars in taxpayer funds in clearly questionable overpayments to his former aide Donny Ferguson, who runs a political smear-ad hit organization that coordinates closely with local GOP candidates. Delgaudio’s payments were ostensibly for Donny to “design” and write his “newsletters” and “postcards,” at a grand-plus a pop. Right.)

Finally, the Board can adopt an actual ethics policy for itself and real protections for their aides, so that if aides are ever again pressured to engage in illegal or unethical acts, they can report the fact to someone without simply getting fired for their honesty. Right now supervisors’ aides are totally the creatures of their political bosses. They have no rights as employees, no recourse when some clown like Delgaudio is their boss. And in the absence of any accountability for themselves, the supervisors are completely free to cast vote after vote — as they have in the last year and a half — to the direct benefit of major campaign contributors.

“Clown” is, of course, a nice way of describing Delgaudio’s moral failings, ethical misconduct, and abuse of office and outrages against just plain decency. Will the Board show it has some spine, some moral integrity, and some belief that there are any principles that rise above self-promotion and party politics?

Given their past record, there is little reason to expect anything but more window-dressing, whitewashing, and wrist-slapping.

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