Did Delgaudio’s friendliness with the Muslim community heighten animosities against him?
A thus far unmentioned aspect of the sticky situation Sterling Supervisor Delgaudio has found himself in (or, brought upon himself, depending on one’s point of view) relates to the timing of the precipitating events.
In the run up to the 2011 elections, Delgaudio had two nemeses: pro-LGBT and anti-Sharia.
The first was a given. As noted in Part 1 of this series, as long as he holds public office, Delgaudio can expect constant rough sledding because of his decades-old job as chief executive of the Public Advocate organization.
But in a strange turn of events, Delgaudio managed to tick off a segment of what might have been considered his base because of his refusal to join the “no Sharia” campaign against candidate David Ramadan.
Though he has been caricatured as “anti-immigrant,” those who know Delgaudio know he is quite the opposite, and in particular he had – as of 2011 – consistently shown an affinity for and friendliness with the Islamic community.
With Delgaudio’s “Do you come in peace?” speech to a Northern Virginia Muslim group (video at top of this article), where he spoke about the aftermath of 2001 vandalism attack against the ADAMS Center, he was well-received by those in attendance and his statements of support for and shared values with Muslims appeared to be genuine and backed up by his actions denoted in the speech.
… the Muslim community reflects his values of being “extremely moral and religious…”
“We have a lot of ethnic groups represented here,” he said. “Sterling is like the United Nations. It’s a very diverse neighborhood.”
[Two recent controversies appear to go against Delgaudio’s positive relationship with the Muslim community: his vote against the Leesburg Muslim Center expansion, and the short-lived board appointment of Andrew Beacham. I have no insight into any change in his thinking if there has been a change, and perhaps a future article can compare the 2011 Delgaudio with the 2014 model.]
What does Delgaudio’s friendliness with the Muslim community circa 2011 have to do with the current state of affairs?
Because Delgaudio himself has said very little about the issues under investigation and thus far has said nothing about any of the staff members involved, to answer the question posed at the beginning of this series – “What happened with Eugene?” – will require a combination of data points and suppositions.
While not yielding a conclusive nor comprehensive explanation of why Delgaudio got into this mess, what follows may be of interest to those who delight in local political inside baseball, and any others trying to put the pieces together for themselves.
DATA POINT 1 – FORMER EMPLOYEES
Former Delgaudio aide Donna Mateer, who worked in the supervisor’s Leesburg office from August 2011 – March 2012, said in her public statement that while she was unhappy at the job for much of her eight-month stint, and was treated as incompetent by her employer from early on, she had friendly relationships with two other longtime Delgaudio staffers who each left in the months prior to Mateer’s own termination.
Although these former staffer are identified only by first name in Mateer’s statement, they figure significantly in both the Post article that broke the story and the special grand jury report, and because the number of staff was not huge, we have a pretty good idea who these individuals were.
DATA POINT 2 – FAILURE TO CHOOSE SIDES IN PRIMARY
It was also in the summer of 2011 that Delgaudio put himself on the outs with some in the local Republican community, when he declined to endorse Jo-Ann Chase in the intraparty contest against Ramadan. Since her arrival on the Loudoun political scene several years earlier, Chase had supported Delgaudio on various prominent issues, was promoted as recently as the previous year as a “national gop leader” in Delgaudio’s weekly newsletter, and might have assumed his support during her primary campaign.
From conversations at that time with Chase supporters and people having close familiarity with the candidate’s own thinking, I learned sentiments within the Chase campaign were that Delgaudio appeared to have been bought off by campaign contributions from Ramadan, and a general sense of betrayal.
(Chase lost the GOP primary battle in August, 2011 to Ramadan, who has since prevailed twice in general elections for the 87th District House of Delegates seat.)
DATA POINT 3 – THE ANTI-SHARIA TEAM
One of the former employees, who resigned prior to Mateer’s termination, is likely the same individual who has appeared with Chase in numerous public venues to voice opposition to Muslim-related projects in Loudoun County, including the proposed (and defeated) Gulen charter school application.
She was part of Chase’s campaign staff early in the summer of 2011, and currently serves as executive director of Virginians for Life, whose blog several months ago stated that “Idolatrous practices, such as; abortion, homosexuality and Islam proliferate under our watch.”
Any friction caused by Delgaudio’s position toward the Muslim community, relative to his staff, is purely conjecture, but it is a possibility to consider, especially with regard to the ongoing Ramadan campaign controversy. An ironic twist – another “rock and a hard place” dilemma facing Delgaudio in 2011 – was that Ramadan professed to be a Christian, not a Muslim, yet much of the negative campaign against him was under the “no Sharia” banner.
DATA POINT 4 – A BUSY, UNHAPPY EMPLOYEE
As she paints herself in her own public statement, with a telling lack of self-awareness, Donna Mateer appears to have been one of the worst hires ever: disgruntled, chafed by opportunities and viewed as incompetent from early on.
At her very first meeting with Delgaudio, she “couldn’t understand why he asked me the questions he did during that interview” which “made no sense to me.” During her term of employment, Mateer was told she was “stupid, incompetent” compared to both Delgaudio’s other staff and staff of the other supervisors. She produced a newsletter for Delgaudio which she “ran off” – most likely, a photocopying job at taxpayers’ expense – “only to take a huge amount of criticism from Eugene over many small details.”
Much of Mateer’s statement consists of a litany of alleged abusive behavior by her boss, Eugene Delgaudio, with not a single instance of Delgaudio doing anything positive, in her view, toward making the job attractive.
Yet she accepted, and kept, the job – despite being put off from the first meeting and perceiving constant “abuse” – because she was “a single mom, and trying to keep my house from going into foreclosure.”
During a summer when the US unemployment rate was at 9%, Mateer was allowed self-direction and discretion to set herself a nearly unlimited schedule, “alone and running the office from the second week” after being hired.
This was one of Delgaudio’s multiple managerial failures during the eight-month period. As the Post first revealed,
In the days before she was fired, Mateer collected e-mails and documents, including the lists of names used to schedule fundraising appointments.
Delgaudio’s attorney, Charlie King, referred to:
…the documents Donna Mateer took from Supervisor Delgaudio’s office and distributed, not only to Chairman York, but to dozens of political activists she hoped would support her.
Having a resentful, unhappy employee left to their own devices in one’s office for countless hours would be any manager’s worst nightmare. Whether Delgaudio was guilty of any of Mateer’s accusations, whether her statement was written alone or with coaching, whether her accusations are true or fabricated – Delgaudio’s negligence could have come back to bite him in many ways.
Given the choice, few elected officials would allow a de facto political enemy unobstructed access to their office. For one thing, every elected position, at every level, provides the opportunity to campaign with public funds. Because the lines can be so blurred – whether in the White House, Congress, general assemblies or a county supervisor’s office – those in office have to follow guidelines which in practice hinge more often on spirit than letter.
A fox in one’s henhouse could have ample opportunity to construct a case wherein appearances, which are so important in framing adherence to the spirit of the law, are altered to tell a different story.
Obviously, the key issues to be addressed both in the March 4 recall petition hearing and, if Delgaudio emerges unscathed, the 2015 elections, have less to do with managerial negligence than with outright misuse of the office.
He may have left an unhappy employee alone for extended periods, who herself was friendly with unhappy former employees, at least one of whom was affiliated with an unhappy former ally; and this now-fired unhappy former employee may have circulated a treasure trove of documents to parties including his longtime political enemies.
It is possible – readers familiar with the case may suppose – that Mateer had outsiders urging or even helping her during the time she was building her case and gathering documents from Delgaudio’s office.
All of that may have happened – or none of it may have happened. In any case those suppositions would only go toward answering the question, “What happened?” to a public figure who would likely be labeled as politically savvy by both supporters and detractors. This is inside baseball stuff, the prime value of which is to further delineate the various sides and factions for those trying to make sense of it all.
An objective outsider could be forgiven for seeing these types of suppositions and this line of questioning as simply variations on: “How did he get caught?”
The most serious charge against Delgaudio was misappropriation of Loudoun County resources for political purposes – a charge which, the special grand jury strongly suggested, would have resulted in an indictment save for the “legal loophole” whereby public officials whose positions are considered part time cannot be penalized for misuse of public assets.
Thus, the more significant question is: What did Delgaudio’s actions, either real or perceived, do to his political future?
Part of that answer may come with the March 4 hearing, or it may come in November 2015. That will be the topic of the final installment in this series.
NEXT: Part 3