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Spokesperson says 13-page report detailing wrongdoing by Virginia Parole Board was released without consent

Posted at 11:35 PM, Feb 25, 2021
and last updated 2021-02-26 08:40:26-05

RICHMOND, Va. -- A spokesperson for the Office of the State Inspector General indicated that a 13-page document containing allegations of wrongdoing by the Virginia Parole Board was a draft report that was released without their consent.

CBS 6 requested an interview with the state inspector general Thursday, and sent his office a number of questions regarding the report -- asking if he were pressured by anyone to edit it and remove numerous details about the violations that he said were founded.

"The biggest victim in all of this is Michael, right, who was robbed of life," said Bonnie Collie, the sister of Richmond patrolman Michael Connors, who was killed in the line of duty in 1979.

Collie said the past seven months has weighed heavily on her family's hearts knowing his convicted killer, Vincent Martin, was paroled last year,

"My mother spoke best when she said the only peace she's had in her life was is that justice was served,” said Collie. “We thought [Martin] was sentenced to death and he wasn't."

The Martin parole case has been clouded by controversy, after the state's official government watchdog found the Virginia Parole Board, its former chair Adrianne Bennett, and its current chair Tonya Chapman, violated the state constitution and several laws in their handling of the case.

In a more extensive and detailed version of the report that was made public last year, Inspector General Michael Westfall said Bennett tried to get colleagues to falsify a report, and he found that Chapman doctored board meeting minutes, which falls under the law regarding false entries -- a Class One misdemeanor.

"Ms. Bennett had a lot of criticism of our concern over the decisions made by the parole board," said Dana Schrad, Executive Director of the Virginia Association of Chiefs of Police.

According to the Office of the State Inspector General report, Schrad was on the receiving end of disparaging remarks from Bennett.

"She was basically saying it was unprofessional for us to criticize, or any way question, the decisions or process of the parole board," said Schrad on Thursday.

The parole board has been criticized by several lawmakers, members of the law enforcement community, and victims' family members for releasing convicted killers, rapists and career criminals long before their sentences were fulfilled.

"This is very concerning, and that's putting it mildly, for the law enforcement community in Virginia,” said Schrad. “Right now law enforcement is being held to very high standards by policy makers, by the General Assembly, in our hiring practices, in open investigations and every other way. We find it really ironic that we can't find the same transparency, accountability and basically appropriate procedures being followed by this parole board.”

In addition to saying the Office of the State Inspector General draft was released without consent, the statement from the watchdog’s office said they are taking appropriate action to identify the person(s) responsible for disclosing such information.

Victims like Connor's sister, Bonnie, said she wishes they'd spend that energy on cleaning up what they call the "board's mess" rather than hunting down the whistleblower.

She said the turmoil takes them back to that cold November night in 1979, when her brother was murdered.

"The political aspect of this, is just bigger than all of us," Collie said.

A spokesperson for Governor Ralph Northam confirmed to CBS 6 on Thursday evening that current Virginia Parole Board Chair Chapman has filed a complaint with the governor's office against the state inspector general.

She also tells us the governor's chief counsel has sent two letters to Office of the State Inspector General, requesting a copy of the 13-page report.