Report: OSIG investigation not thorough, investigator biased
Although no one interfered with an Office of the State Inspector General investigation of the Virginia Parole Board, its lead investigator on a contentious parole decision displayed bias and OSIG’s investigation was not adequately thorough, a law firm tasked with looking into OSIG’s investigation said in a report Monday.
“OSIG’s investigative process and methods employed during the investigation phase were not of the quality of substance necessary to conduct a thorough review,” said the authors from the law firm Nixon Peabody. “Furthermore, we find it most likely that OSIG’s led investigator was impaired by personal bias and that this bias likely had an impact on the tone and substance of the OSIG Parole Board Report.”
The report comes after legislators called for an investigation of OSIG, in the wake of leaked reports and recordings that cast into doubt the soundness of the parole board’s decision to grant a Richmond man parole, and the independence of the watchdog’s investigation of the decisions.
The Nixon Peabody report didn’t weigh in on whether OSIG’s findings or recommendations were sound.
“OSIG's investigation and findings were not improperly influenced by any third parties, including the Office of the Governor and the Secretary of Public Safety and Homeland Security,” the authors wrote. “There is no evidence that OSIG ever sought or relied upon any input from individuals outside of OSIG, other than legal guidance provided by Assistant Attorney General Michael Jagels, which was appropriate.”
A recording obtained by the Richmond Times-Dispatch said the lead investigator and the inspector general were interrogated by administration officials in the governor’s office, where they were questioned if OSIG had the legal authority to investigate the parole board.
“The report confirms what we have said all along: that the Governor’s office had no involvement in the Office of the State Inspector General’s investigation or its reports, nor did anyone in the Administration pressure OSIG to reach a different conclusion,” Governor Ralph Northam said in an emailed statement.
Republicans, who have questioned the ability of a narrow investigation to bring to light issues within the parole board since the report was funded in the budget, said the report ignores issues of the parole board itself.
“The Northam Administration got what they wanted from Nixon Peabody: a report reinforcing their incredulous efforts to deflect attention from the Parole Board’s indefensible conduct,” said Senator Mark Obsenshain (R-Rockingham) in an emailed statement.
The mixed results of the report and unchanged views of Democrats and Republicans on the topic, along with an ongoing lawsuit, could means this is the beginning of the next chapter of the months-long controversy.
Jennifer Moschetti, the lead investigator, sued the State Inspector General after she was fired from her job.
“Early email communications from Investigator Moschetti indicate a high probability of bias against Mr. Martin being granted parole. Evidence of bias first appeared in the lead investigator's response to the Investigations Manager's initial conclusion that the VPB Martin matter should not be investigated,” the report reads.
The report recommended that the OSIG institute more training to find bias in investigators, and also for lawmakers to fund an in-house counsel for the agency.
“Questions arose during the investigation as to whether the fact that the OAG represented both OSIG and the VPB created a conflict . Not only are both agencies represented by the OAG , but their respective counsels work within the same section,” the authors wrote. “Without a general counsel of its own , this is a plot line destined to repeat itself.”