In normal governmental bodies, motions or proposals even on controversial and difficult issues are presented and filed in advance so that not only the members of the body but even (gasp) the citizens of a democracy can have a chance to offer their views before a vote is taken. This is called “transparency.” Under Virginia’s open-meeting laws, it is actually illegal for more than two supervisors to meet privately; the whole intention is that business be done in the full light of day, so that no secret understandings can be cooked up behind closed doors and sprung on the public without warning.
But as we know, the Loudoun County Board of Supervisors under its current all-Republican control is not a normal governmental body. Its normal operating procedure is opacity, its MO consisting of providing as little public information as possible so as to avoid calling attention to anything unpleasant.
So while the Board has at last placed the Delgaudio matter on its agenda for this Wednesday’s meeting, after a mere year’s shilly-shallying, it has refused to offer a word about what actual measures it is considering taking, either to censure Delgaudio for his misuse of office or to adopt ethics rules to close the gaping loopholes that the all-Republican Board with malice aforethought carved out for itself upon taking office in January 2012.
While other agenda items for Wednesday night’s meeting are accompanied in the board packet with the usual explanatory material and draft motions, the Delgaudio item — listed for the very end of the July 17 session, just before the supervisors skip town for a well deserved month and a half vacation — provides no information whatsoever.
Here is what it says in its entirety:
“18. Grand Jury Report: Follow-up on Supervisor Eugene Delgaudio Investigation (No item in packet)” [bold face in original]
Asked by the Washington Post today what action the Board is considering, Chairman Scott York (R) refused to respond.
In fact, there is no reason to expect the Board to do anything other than slap Delgaudio’s wrist, if that. And don’t expect them to demand any real ethical accounting from themselves. Supervisor Ralph Buona (R-Ashburn), his usual condescending self, has already airily insisted that the Board has already taken care of “80 percent” of the problems the grand jury identified; the problem is only that “the public is just not aware of it.” (Yes, all we have is a perception problem.)
In fact, the new wonderful revamped policy that Buona is so proud of, which the Board adopted back in December, is a complete farce. It offers no protections to supervisors’ aides beyond telling them that if they believe their boss has engaged in “actionable behavior,” they can tell the county administrator who will . . . forward it to the Board itself “for review.” Funny, that’s what Delgaudio’s aide tried to do, with the result that York kept the matter secret for half a year, hid incriminating documents, refused to respond to the aide, and only took action when the Washington Post broke the story.
And the aide was fired, by the way, without any apparent recourse.
The fact is that the supervisors themselves remain the sole arbiter of what is “actionable behavior” under the “new” policy, and aides still have zero of the basic protections that all other county employees (or employees in any corporation) have. The grand jury pointedly recommended that a neutral third party should be able to determine if aides are being asked to engage in improper behavior, as it is an obvious conflict of interest for the supervisors — who, just in case we forgot, are elected politicians – to play this role.
The real sign that the Board wants to sweep it all under the rug are the comments from several supervisors that, as the Post reports, they are “frustrated” that the Delgaudio matter has “overshadowed the Board’s other work.”
Judging by past form we know how they will make sure that doesn’t happen any more: what’s under the rug casts no shadows!