RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — The state agency recently tasked with investigating complaints about the Virginia Parole Board has found “substantiated” allegations but is withholding further details, citing exemptions in the state’s open records law.
In May, officials launched an investigation into how the Virginia Parole Board handled the release of Vincent Martin, convicted of killing a Richmond police officer more than 40 years ago. The Office of the Inspector General (OSIG) now says that some claims against the board are legitimate.
8News has learned that the most prominent complaint is that the board has failed in notifying victims’ families of violent offenders being released. In the six-page report dated July 28, few words remain.
“Nothing but redactions,” said Miles Turner, a board member of the Richmond United for Law Enforcement group. “I’ve been sending FOIA requests for the Office of the Inspector General once a week for about the last month.”
The report is written by the Office of the Inspector General to Secretary of Public Safety and Homeland Security Brian Moran. On the first page, the OSIG wrote the report is “based on several complaints made to the State Fraud, Waste and Abuse Hotline.” On the last page under “conclusions”, the report reads “allegations are substantiated,” though the redacted copy doesn’t say what allegations or mention Martin’s name.
“Generally people that act like this have something to hide,” Turner said.
Turner says he is one of many in the law enforcement community itching to find out exactly what the parole board is accused of.
“The public deserves answers,” Turner added.
Republican state lawmakers such as Delegate Jason Miyares of Virginia Beach tell 8News they’re furious, citing a state code. Miyares told 8News Friday that all members of the General Assembly are entitled to an unredacted copy.
“We still don’t know what happened,” he said. “We have some systematic problems with our parole board where they’re letting our some of the most violent offenders back on our streets,” Miyares said. “At a time where I think people are begging for transparency and accountability in government, it is so disappointing that the exact opposite happened.”
Miyares adds, “My hope is that when we go back in special session, if we’re continued to be ignored, then maybe we can introduce legislation that absolutely, specifically demands that but we shouldn’t have to. That’s my frustration. The law is clear as day, it’s about transparency and accountability and right now they’re ignoring it,” referring to the Office of the Inspector General.
The Office told the Associated Press in an email that all Parole Board information provided for the investigation was exempt under Virginia’s open records law. That law mostly frees the board from complying with the same disclosures as many other government agencies.
“We’re gonna find out what happened. It might take us a while but we’re gonna find out,” Turner said.
On Friday, Governor Ralph Northam’s office deferred 8News’ questions to the new Parole Board Chair, Tonya Chapman. Chapman took over after the decision to release Martin had already been made.
Adrienne Bennett, who was the chair at the time, accepted a new job in Virginia Beach within days of the decision about Martin’s release being made.
Chapman declined an interview with 8News but released the following statement:
Due to the confidentiality of the OSIG report, the Parole Board is not able to comment on the information contained in the report. However, the Parole Board must highlight that OSIG’s conclusions are based on factual inaccuracies, a misunderstanding of the Parole Board’s procedures, and incorrect interpretations of the Virginia State Code. Furthermore, as previously indicated, pursuant to § 53.1-136 (2)(a) Powers and duties of Board, the findings in OSIG’s investigation do not impact the final decisions rendered by the Board as the final decision rests solely with the Parole Board.”Statement from new Parole Board Chair, Tonya Chapman
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