RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) – The state investigator tasked with looking into alleged violations by the Virginia Parole Board wants to know if she will be granted whistleblower protection status as quickly as possible, claiming the governor’s chief of staff attacked her character during a press conference last week in a motion for an expedited hearing.
Jennifer Moschetti, an investigator in the Office of State Inspector General, filed a whistleblower lawsuit against the state’s inspector general, Michael Westfall, seeking protections after she shared details of her investigation into complaints made against the parole board with state lawmakers.
Tim Anderson, a Virginia Beach attorney representing Moschetti, filed a motion Monday for an expedited hearing in Richmond Circuit Court following remarks made by Clark Mercer, Gov. Ralph Northam’s chief of staff, during a coronavirus press conference on March 9.
Mercer said state officials and the parole board believed OSIG investigators were biased and called for a meeting to discuss the final report that stated the board failed to adhere to its own policy and violated state law.
“We went into that meeting thinking there was bias and lack of objectivity,” Mercer said as he recalled the meeting. “We left that meeting knowing that there was bias and lack of objectivity in that report.”
Attached to the motion for an expedited hearing was a glowing performance review for Moschetti signed by two OSIG employees and a pay action worksheet showing Westfall approved a $2,000 bonus on Jan. 26. The documents were shared in an effort to undercut claims from Mercer that Moschetti’s work on the parole board investigation was believed to be biased and showcase Moschetti’s standing within the inspector general’s office.
“Jennifer was tasked with several parole board cases this year, requiring significant investigation and reporting,” the performance evaluation, which was signed by a supervisor on Oct. 20, 2020, stated. “Jennifer meticulously reviewed and re-reviewed evidence and other documentation to ensure final reports were of the highest quality.”
The whistleblower lawsuit filed by Moschetti disclosed she was the investigator behind the previously unseen draft report into the parole of Vincent Martin, who was convicted of killing a Richmond police officer in 1979, that drew heavy criticism after it was leaked in February.
Moschetti denies sharing any of her work on the investigation with the media or lawmakers last month, but the lawsuit said her fears of being “used as a scapegoat” compelled her to seek protections under the Virginia Whistle Blower Act.
On March 3, Moschetti anonymously provided a partial copy of her work to the leadership in the Virginia General Assembly. The lawsuit states Moschetti worked with federal authorities investigating complaints against the parole board and reported alleged misconduct by Westfall for failing to publish the additional violations in the draft report to lawmakers.
Two days later, two OSIG employees visited Moschetti at home to give her a letter informing her she was being put on paid leave pending an investigation, the suit alleges.
Anderson, a Virginia Beach lawyer running for a House of Delegates seat as a Republican, represented state Sen. Amanda Chase in her failed effort to force the GOP to hold a statewide primary.
Moschetti alleges an investigation from Virginia State Police into how the draft was leaked is a tactic to harass her and a violation of her whistleblower protections. Corrine Geller, a state police spokeswoman, confirmed OSIG requested an investigation.
Moschetti is suing Westfall, who she claims put her on leave “in an effort to insulate his own position as State Inspector General,” in order to be reinstated.
Virginia code states, “No employer may discharge, threaten, or otherwise discriminate or retaliate against a whistle blower whether acting on his own or through a person acting on his behalf or under his direction.”
The Office of the State Inspector General has declined to comment on Moschetti’s claims. No court date has been set as of Monday.
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