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Did state parole board violate its own procedure?

Posted at 11:23 PM, Sep 30, 2020
and last updated 2020-10-01 10:07:16-04

RICHMOND, Va. -- A damning report from the Office of the State Inspector General (OSIG) released more than a month ago revealed the State Parole Board violated Virginia law and several of its own rules in the handling of the Vincent Martin case.

Martin, convicted decades ago of killing a Richmond Police Officer, was released from prison even though the family of the late officer was not properly notified.

CBS 6 then submitted a half-dozen more Freedom of Information Act requests to see if the case was an anomaly or part of a troubling pattern.

While Crime Insider sources said the reports are complete, the OSIG told CBS 6 it needed more time to fulfill the request.

CBS 6 was first to report, the controversy surrounding the Martin decision, a decision that triggered an investigation by OSIG.

State Inspector General Michael Westfall, initially released only a heavily redacted version of his report, that left out the majority of the report. That drew the ire of several state lawmakers who pushed for the entire document to be released.

When it was released, we learned that Westfall found numerous flaws with the handling of the Martin case, particularly regarding the board's efforts to contact the victim's family.

Westfall's conclusion: former Chair Adrienne Bennett and the board had violated state law.

It was about that same time CBS 6 learned that the inspector general was investigating at least six other parole board cases.

"The statute is very clear: the report goes to the governor, to the majority and the minority parties," said Sen. Ryan McDougal, a Republican. "The Commonwealth, the citizens of Virginia, the victims have a right to know what is going on in the parole department."

House Minority Leader Todd Gilbert, in a letter to Westfall, said: “If the new reports have been provided to the governor, we are disappointed that once again the administration is being afforded the opportunity to preview derogatory information on the operation of a state agency.”

Secretary of Public Safety Brian Moran said in an email to CBS 6, “We are reviewing the allegations and await the Parole Board's response. As you know, we have solved many of the notice issues, and will continue to work with the new chair to address any other alleged deficiencies in the board's processes.”

McDougal sits on the Judiciary Committee. He said while the special session is still going on, lawmakers should debate the issues now.

"If there's continuing issues with the Parole Board not following the law, not following the statutes, then strong action should be taken and it shouldn't be by the members of the board but the governor should take action," said McDougal.