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Parole Board Controversy Will Get Independent Investigation

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AP Photo/Steve Helber
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Legislators approved a budget amendment funding an independent investigation into the Office of the State Inspector General Wednesday, as Republican lawmakers said the investigation’s scope sidestepped critical issues.

The growing controversy stems from the inspector general’s office investigation of the process used by the parole board to grant parole to Vincent Martin, a man convicted of killing a police officer. Leaks later revealed a report to the governor was missing violations the inspector general included in an earlier draft. After a whistleblower filed a complaint, she was fired. She then sued the office over the termination.

The budget amendment creating the investigation says the Attorney General’s office will pick the investigator. It will do that with input from the Governor’s office and leadership from the General Assembly. The investigation will cost $250,000.

The House of Delegates approved the investigation on a party line vote. Before they did, accusations flew.

“This investigation - this so-called investigation - does not investigate anything about the parole board at all. It investigates the inspector general's office,” said Delegate Todd Gilbert, the leader of House Republicans.”

Republicans want the inquiry to focus on the parole board itself, rather than the inspector general’s investigation of the parole board.

“We need to look at it all and let the chips fall where they may,” said Senator Mark Obenshain of Harrisonburg. “I think there've been somewhere near a dozen different investigations. But what this does is says, ‘we're going to spend $250,000 looking at one, one single investigation by the office of the inspector general,' and that's of the Vincent Martin case.”

Democratic Delegate Don Scott said Republicans’ arguments stem from their opposition to parole generally.

“In their soul they're opposed to parole. They opposed to second chances,” he said. He went on to say that they sought to politicise the issue. “They've told you that every time this is their election issue”

The Virginia Senate also approved the amendment after a much longer debate which included a lengthy debate over a parliamentary process in order to amend the provision to create their own investigatory committee.

Investigators will need to submit a written report by June 15th, 2021.

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

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