Senator Obenshain Comments on New Parole Board Revelations

February 25, 2021


CONTACT:  Jennifer Aulgur

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Senator Mark Obenshain Comments on New Parole Board Revelations 

HARRISONBURG, VA, January 24, 2021 – Today, Senator Mark Obenshain (R-Rockingham) commented on WTVR Channel 6 reporter John Burkett’s explosive story detailing more wrongdoings by the Virginia Parole Board, the Office of Inspector General (OSIG), and the apparent attempts to cover up these wrongdoings:

John Burkett’s story revealed that the Virginia Inspector General excised seven pages from a report detailing the Parole Board’s wrongdoings with respect to the parole case of convicted killer Vincent Martin. The first version has been reported to contain shocking findings of lies, unethical behavior, and violations of law.

Obenshain said, “There are three main issues here: misconduct by the Parole Board, violations of the duty of the OSIG to maintain independence, and a clearly coordinated effort to cover up the misconduct to avoid political damage and embarrassment.”

Tuesday night’s story details charges that former Parole Board Chair Adrienne Bennett, now a Northam-appointed judge, asked at least two employees to falsify a report. It also suggests that the OSIG concluded she lied to Secretary of Public Safety Brian Moran. Further, the story refers to another finding that Bennett told at least one Parole Board employee she was purposely going to secure the release Martin and certain other inmates near the end of her term because of the backlash those decisions would bring.

The OSIG is statutorily obligated to study and report to the Governor’s Chief of Staff, the Speaker, Majority and Minority Leaders of the House, and the President Pro Tempore, Majority and Minority Leaders of the Senate problems related to the mismanagement or operation of a state agency.

“In direct contradiction to its statutory responsibilities, the Inspector General appears to have deliberately withheld highly relevant information and damning findings about its investigation of the Parole Board,” said Obenshain. “We should be demanding answers about how that report came to be sanitized. Was it at the instigation of the Governor’s office? Was it ordered by the Attorney General’s office?”

“An Inspector General is supposed to be an independent watchdog, free from political influence.  When an Inspector General is persuaded to whitewash his investigation report or to give a sanitized version to the opposition, nobody knows or learns about the fraud, waste, abuse or corruption.  That is certainly what seems to have happened here.  It smells like a deliberate and coordinated effort to keep the public from learning about corruption in the Parole Board.

“The Governor, the Inspector General and perhaps the Attorney General have a lot of explaining to do. So do Judge Bennett, current Parole Board Chair Chapman, and any other member of the Parole Board who has been complicit in this growing web of misconduct and deceit.”

Senator Obenshain represents the twenty-sixth district in the Virginia Senate. The district includes the city of Harrisonburg and the counties of Warren, Shenandoah, Page, Rappahannock and Rockingham (part).  He is a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee and is the former Chairman of the Virginia State Crime Commission