I received a phone call yeseterday from Theophani Stamos, the Arlington Commonwealth’s Attorney whom the Loudoun Circuit Court appointed as the special prosecutor to investigate allegations of criminal misconduct against Eugene Delgaudio. She asked that our conversation be kept between the two of us, and I will honor that request. However, I do want to make two things known to anyone interested in this matter: First, Real Advocate has been informed that the files Loudoun county has been holding in connection with this investigation are now in Ms. Stamos’s hands. Second, through the entirety of this matter including the present, Real Advocate has felt, and continues to feel, that the behavior of the Commonwealth’s Attorneys involved (Mr. Plowman, in Loudoun, and Ms. Stamos, in Arlington) has been flawless. Mr. Plowman, in a display of integrity we wish would be instructive to his fellow Republicans on the board of supervisors, immediately saw the potential for the appearance of impropriety when asked for an informal review of the complaint filed with county Human Resources by Mr. Delgaudio’s former staff aide. Accordingly, he did what any honest elected official would do: he recused himself from the proceedings and asked Ms. Stamos, as a courtesy, to conduct that informal review, which she did.
From county attorney Jack Roberts’s letter to the private investigators he retained to do a non-criminal investigation, it appears that those investigators found evidence warranting a more formal review by law enforcement. When Mr. Roberts referred that material to Mr. Plowman, Loudoun’s prosecutor again did the right thing and passed the case again to Ms. Stamos. All of this appears, to us, to be by-the-book, and no reason to question the professionalism or sincerity of either Mr. Plowman or Ms. Stamos.
Some have suggested, in comments appearing on newspaper Web sites and blogs, that the three weeks between when Ms. Stamos was appointed and when the materials Loudoun was holding were delivered to her, is significant for its length. We don’t see it that way. In a prosecutor’s office where matters of murder, rape, and other violent and/or continuing criminal activity most likely comprises a large part of the case load, the investigation of evidence of a non-violent offense that refers to activity now almost a year in the past may simply not rise to a level of priority that outranks killers and other dangerous crooks. We, frankly, don’t know and, rather than add to some of the groundless speculation (much of it coming from anonymous commenters who apparently also don’t know) if three weeks is typical or not. At this point, we don’t care: Ms. Stamos has the papers and that’s what matters.
We would also like to speak to county board chairman Scott York’s repeated claim that he feels Ms. Stamos should have made phone calls when asked for her informal review of Mr. Delgaudio’s aide’s complaint. Here, it is Mr. York who needs to make some calls, or otherwise ask someone who knows better than he does, why she may not have done that. Ms. Stamos is a lawyer working for another jurisdiction. She did Loudoun county a favor, at the request of its own chief prosecutor. She is not an investigator. When calls are made to witnesses, they are made by police detectives or other appropriately trained personnel. An attorney who questions witnesses directly risks doing that job imperfectly and even risks becoming a witness herself (therefore subject to removal from the case as an attorney). As Ms. Stamos’s review was informal, we see that it would have been inappropriate for her to ask her own county’s law enforcement agencies, and inappropriate to ask the Virginia State Police, to dedicate resources (at taxpayer expense, of course) to that review. The e-mail exchange between Mr. Plowman and Ms. Stamos makes it very clear that he asked her to review a document, and that is exactly what she did. We again point out that Mr. Plowman, when asked for his review, was apparently unaware that more papers existed that he or Ms. Stamos might then have considered.
We believe Mr. York has contradicted himself on this point: he says it should have been the lawyers’ job to extend the investigation beyond the papers the county provided to Mr. Plowman, without Mr. York taking the initiative to offer them. He says he’s only a “rehabilitated carpenter,” and not paid enough to know what he should do with a thick stack of evidence. Perhaps that’s true. But he also says he personally conducted three reviews of that stack, apparently fully confident that, if it contained evidence of serious misconduct, he would be able to recognize it. At his town hall meeting this month, Mr. York, again displaying such confidence, spoke to the legality of a long list of things a supervisor might or might not be legally able to do in their office, with their staff aide’s help. He also seemed quite confident of his conclusion that, on his final pass (and, from Mr. Delgaudio’s lawyer’s letter to a local newspaper, upon making his own telephone calls to further his investigation), he did find evidence of misconduct that should be reviewed by law enforcement. That’s a lot of legal reasoning and fact-finding from a man who says he is neither qualified nor paid enough to make decisions of that kind.
Scott York may have acted in good faith at every step he’s taken. We can’t be absolutely sure. But, at best, he’s done a very bad job of deciding whom to talk to, about what, and when. Now, having his mismanagement (and, again, we use that word in the most generous possible evaluation) of this matter come to light, his attempts to blame some lawyers who have done their jobs professionally and with visible attention to integrity is painful to watch, embarrassing to our chairman, and distracting for its irrelevance. The right person finally has the information she should have had all along. Any damage done by the time this took, and any blame for how long that’s been, should be laid at chairman York’s doorstep, and nowhere else.