RICHMOND, Va. -- Virginia Governor Glenn Youngkin said he was shocked this week when the Virginia Senate voted to reject most of the people the Republican governor nominated the state parole board. Senate Democrats, who hold a majority in that chamber, said their vote was partly in retaliation after House Republicans voted against appointments to other boards.
"This is shocking," Youngkin said. "Here we see the Democrats trying to continue a cover-up of a parole board scandal. The Democrat-controlled parole board violated the law, put criminals ahead of victims, and tried covering it up. Here they are again trying to stand in the way of reforming the parole board and shining a light on this."
The governor was referring to a parole board scandal under Governor Ralph Northam's administration in which situations arose where the board freed felons convicted of murder without first reaching out to victims’ families as required by law. Overhauling the board became a theme in Youngkin's campaign for governor.
State Senator Joe Morrissey (D - Petersburg) called the rejection of Youngkin's nominees purely a political move.
"The Governor took some people off the Democrats list, the Democrats retaliated," Morrissey, who joined Democrats and voted against the nominees, said. "I don't necessarily like those politics at all because it's like the Cuban Missle Crisis. When does it end? How far does the escalation go?"
Thursday's vote came about a month after the House voted down 11 of former Democratic Gov. Ralph Northam’s appointees to various boards and commissions, a move that outraged Democrats.
House Republicans said at the time that the decision had been made in concert with the Youngkin administration in retaliation for the Senate's earlier defeat of a Youngkin Cabinet nominee, former U.S. EPA administrator Andrew Wheeler.
"This is a collection of people who should be on the parole board doing this job," Youngkin, who now has to submit new names, said. "I'm absolutely beside myself that [Senate Democrats] have done this."
Morrissey said now that political points have been made, it was time for state leaders to stop the bickering.
"I don't know if those names will be resuscitated, but the Governor will put forward four new people and we have to stop killing each other's nominations," he said "My feeling is this, the Governor has the prerogative to put who he wants on the parole board. Let's get the nominees through and stop playing tit for tat."
The parole board members who were removed were: Tracy Banks, Cheryl Nici-O’Connell, Charles Partin, and Carmen Williams.
Youngkin said if those people were ultimately not approved for the board, they will still serve the Commonwealth in some capacity.
"We are going to continue to find ways to have them deeply engaged in our administration," he said. "Qualified people deserve a role to serve Virginians. These people are amazingly qualified."
The board chairman, Chadwick Dotson, was not impacted by the vote. It was not immediately clear if his name had been submitted yet for legislative consideration.
Youngkin appointed the five new members to the parole board on the day he was sworn in, dismissing every former member who served during the Northam administration.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.