LEESBURG, Va. (AP) — Loudoun County judges on Tuesday recused themselves from a recall case against a county supervisor known for anti-gay rhetoric and accused of misusing his office staff to further his political agenda.
Petitioners are seeking the ouster of Republican Supervisor Eugene Delgaudio under a rarely used Virginia law that allows a trial on an elected official's alleged misuse of office, neglect of duty or incompetence.
The petition signed by more than 600 residents of Delgaudio's Sterling district alleges he used county staff to solicit donations for his conservative advocacy group, Public Advocate of the United States, which is classified as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center.
A special grand jury investigated Delgaudio and declined to indict, but Delgaudio's fellow supervisors censured him.
At a hearing Tuesday, Circuit Court Judge Burke McCahill said all Loudoun County judges are recusing themselves and that the state Supreme Court will appoint a judge to hear the case. McCahill did not specify why the judges were recusing themselves.
Loudoun County Commonwealth's Attorney Jim Plowman, a Republican who ran on the same ticket as Delgaudio in 2011, is also seeking to recuse his office. Plowman's office would normally be expected to pursue the case on behalf of the petitioners once they met the initial requirements under the law. Plowman, through his deputy, asked that his office be recused. The judge, McCahill, did not immediately grant that request because McCahill thought that decision should be made by whatever judge is appointed to hear the case.
Lawyers told McCahill that they expect a trial would take one to two weeks. Delgaudio's lawyer, Charles King, said he expects Delgaudio would waive his right to a jury if the case proceeds to trial.
Outside court, Delgaudio denied wrongdoing and said opponents are trying to nullify the will of the voters who know him well and have elected him four times.
"If you don't like a supervisor's issues ... vote against him," Delgaudio said.
Delgaudio and his lawyer said they believe the real impetus behind the recall is anger about his outspoken advocacy against same-sex marriage and what he refers to as the "homosexual agenda."
"Even Supervisor Delgaudio is protected by the First Amendment," King said.
John Flannery, lawyer for the group that filed the petition, Sterling Deserves Better, said that the questions about Delgaudio's use of county staff became public after the most recent election, and that the court petition is a valid means to pursue Delgaudio's removal.
"In fact the General Assembly passed legislation so that when you have a toxic pathogen like this supervisor, you don't have to wait until the next election," Flannery said.
Flannery said it is hypocritical for Delgaudio to claim he has a mandate from citizens at the ballot box, and then seek a bench trial rather than a jury trial.
"He doesn't want the people to decide his fate," Flannery said.