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Parole Board whistleblower files lawsuit over firing

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Posted at 2:30 PM, Jan 15, 2022
and last updated 2022-01-15 14:52:49-05

RICHMOND, Va.— A former state employee who was fired after finding misconduct during an investigation of the Virginia Parole Board has filed a federal lawsuit against her former employer and two top officials of outgoing Gov. Ralph Northam’s administration.

The Richmond Times-Dispatch reports that Jennifer Moschetti, a former investigator with the Office of the State Inspector General, alleges wrongful termination and defamation in a lawsuit filed Friday in U.S. District Court.

Moschetti said in her complaint that the lawsuit is about protecting whistleblowers. The suit names OSIG, Inspector General Michael Westfall, Secretary of Public Safety Brian Moran and Northam Chief of Staff Clark Mercer as defendants.

Moschetti “could never have imagined that ... she would become the scapegoat for having shined a light on Board misconduct,” the lawsuit states. “But that’s exactly what happened.”

OSIG and the governor’s office did not immediately respond to requests seeking comment.

Moschetti was the lead investigator on at least nine reports in 2020 that found violations of law and policy, including the board freeing felons convicted of murder without first reaching out to victims’ families as required by law. She was fired in March.

In her lawsuit, Moschetti said Westfall supervised and collaborated with her during the investigation. She said Westfall also certified as “substantiated” her findings of violations of policy and law by parole board members related to the panel’s decision to grant parole to eight inmates serving time for convictions of murder.

Moschetti said she shared some information from her parole board reports with the FBI, “out of concern that wrongdoing by the Board was likely to be covered up.”

On March 3, Moschetti said she released a partial copy of her file to the leadership of the General Assembly, which is defined as an “Appropriate Authority under the Virginia Whistleblower Act." Moschetti said she released information to the General Assembly because “she feared she was going to be used as a scapegoat for the controversy surrounding the Board’s conduct.”

Moschetti is seeking $250,000 for loss of wages and benefits.. She is seeking an additional $750,000 for future loss of pay. In addition, Moschetti is seeking $10 million in compensatory damages for “humiliation, mental and emotional distress." She's also seeking punitive damages against the individual defendants in an amount not to exceed $350,000.

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