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State Lawmakers Working to Publicize Virginia Parole Board Votes

Lawmakers in Richmond are debating ways to shed more sunlight on the actions of the Virginia Parole Board.

The Virginia Parole Board is currently facing intense scrutiny in the wake of a government watchdog report saying the board violated the law and its own policies by releasing a man sentenced to life for killing a Richmond police officer. Now a bipartisan coalition of lawmakers is hoping to create some transparency on the issue.

Republican Senator David Suetterlein of Roanoke introduced a bill requiring public disclosure of the individual votes of board members.

“The Parole Board is already subject to FOIA for things related to finance and guidance documents, things of that nature," Sutterlein explains. "This would simply provide that their votes are also public in the same way that the votes of pretty much every board in Virginia are also public.”

Senator Jennifer Boysko is a Democrat from Herndon, and she says the lack of transparency serves a purpose. 

“The board communicates and discusses as one voice," she says. "And when we separate people out there have been some issues where individual board members have received threats because of some high-profile decisions.”

The bill passed a Senate committee with bipartisan votes, and it’s now on its way to the Senate Finance and Appropriations Committee.

This report, provided by Virginia Public Radio, was made possible with support from the Virginia Education Association.

Michael Pope is an author and journalist who lives in Old Town Alexandria.