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Inspector General didn't share longer parole board report with Governor, affidavit reveals

Posted at 4:33 PM, Mar 01, 2021
and last updated 2021-03-02 05:49:40-05

RICHMOND, Va. -- The Office of the State Inspector General (OSIG), Virginia's official government watchdog, did not share a longer, more detailed version of a report into the Virginia Parole Board's (VPB) handling of the release of a man who killed a Richmond Police Officer, according to a sworn affidavit. A spokesperson for Virginia Governor Ralph Northam shared that document with CBS 6.

In it, Virginia Inspector General Michael Westfall said the first time he shared the findings of his investigation with the Office of the Governor was in a letter dated July 23, 2020. That letter addressed to Virginia Public Safety Secretary Brian Moran was six-pages long and initially almost completely redacted when it was released to CBS 6 and other media.

Last week, CBS 6 was the first to report on a 13-page version of that document.

The longer and unredacted document went into much greater detail about the investigation into the parole board's actions.

It stated both former VPB Chair Adrianne Bennett and current VPB Chair Tonya Chapman had violated the Virginia Constitution, multiple state laws, VPB policies and procedures, and the Virginia Department of Human Resource Management's standards of conduct.

On Friday, Governor Ralph Northam invoked an article of the Virginia Constitution that forced the Office of the State Inspector General to send him the 13-page report, according to Alena Yarmosky, senior communications advisor for the governor.

Previous attempts by the governor's counsel to obtain the document from OSIG had been unsuccessful, Yarmosky said.

"After reviewing the preliminary findings, it is clear the public needs to better understand why and how the OSIG determined that these initial allegations were insufficient to include in their final report," said Yarmosky. "Individuals named in this document also deserve the opportunity to defend their reputations against assertions that were never included in the final report. The Governor welcomes further outside investigation."

While they support such a probe, Yarmosky said the matter has not affected Governor Northam's stance on parole, and that he will continue to appoint people to the VPB "who believe in second chances."

Westfall's investigation began after OSIG received several complaints regarding the way the parole board handled the case of Vincent Lamont Martin.

Prior to his release in 2020, Martin had been serving life in prison for the 1979 murder of Richmond Patrolman Michael Connors.

In the 13-page version of the report detailing his findings, Westfall wrote that Bennett violated the state constitution by not remaining impartial in the Martin case.

He wrote she told at least one parole board employee that she was going to purposely release Martin and certain other inmates near the end of her term because of the backlash those decisions would bring.

The inspector general also found that on March 30, 2020, Bennett asked a VPB administrator to instruct a hearing examiner to upload an old interview report and submit it as their own, but that both the administrator and the hearing examiner “refused to falsify a report and violate their own ethics.”

The report also stated that on April 3, 2020, Bennett falsely stated to Moran and one of his deputies that she had not advocated for Martin’s release and that a decision on his parole had not been made.

The report also stated that OSIG determined Bennett had:

  • violated COV 53.1-139, regarding presiding at all meetings of the board and the keeping of minutes of its proceedings
  • violated the Constitution of Virginia's Bill of Rights, Section 8-A, regarding the rights of victims of crime

The report also stated Chapman violated the Virginia law (COV 18.2-472) regarding false entries or destruction of records by officers, and another law (COV 2.2-310) regarding the cooperation of state agencies and officers.

Westfall also found Chapman violated the executive order requiring all executive branch agencies to cooperate and assist OSIG investigations to the fullest extent.

The Code of Virginia requires the inspector general to turn evidence over to a prosecutor if he reasonably believes that state law has been broken.

Yarmosky said Westfall had not done so, as far as they knew.

CBS 6 reached out to the Office of the Attorney General on Friday and asked if Westfall had at any point shared the 13-page version of the report with them and if they were investigating the findings.

In response, Charlotte Gomer, the director of communications for Attorney General Mark Herring, said this was an issue between OSIG and the Parole Board.

Meanwhile, Westfall has asked the Virginia State Police to investigate how the 13-page version of the report was released without his consent.

State Police spokesperson Corinne Geller told CBS 6 they have since initiated a review into the matter, which is currently ongoing.

This is a developing story.

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