Author Archive

Senator Obenshain Calls on Governor and NCAA to Relax Restrictions for College Football Games in the Commonwealth

April 21, 2021

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

CONTACT:  Jennifer Aulgur

PHONE: (540) 437-1451

EMAIL:  [email protected]

Obenshain Calls on Governor and NCAA to Relax Restrictions for College Football Games in the Commonwealth

Restrictions Should be Amended in time for VMI v. JMU College Playoff Game this Weekend

HARRISONBURG, VA  – Today, Senator Mark Obenshain (R-Rockingham), issued the following statement regarding this weekend’s upcoming VMI v. JMU College Football Playoff game in Harrisonburg and the current restrictions with regard to attendance. 

“This weekend is a very exciting one for athletics in Virginia.  VMI will be playing in its first ever college football play-off game against JMU in the first round of the FCS College Playoffs.  Unfortunately, due to the Governor’s current edicts on capacity for outdoor sporting venues, and the more stringent restrictions set by the NCAA, very few fans from either school will even be able to attend this game.”

Governor Northam, via his fourth version of EO 72, limits attendance at outdoor sporting venues to 30% of stadium capacity. Furthermore, the NCAA is even more strict with a limit for football stadiums at 25% capacity.  The capacity of Bridgeforth Stadium at JMU is 25,000; and because of these limitations, only about 6,000 fans will be permitted to attend.

“I have strong ties to both great schools and I just want more fans from both schools to be able to show support. My grandfather was a member of the VMI Class of 1930, JMU is in my Senate district, where I was also a tuition-paying parent.  Invoking the same spirt that led Governor Mark Warner to fight for Virginia Tech to join UVA as a member of the ACC, I call on the Governor to go to bat today for JMU and VMI and to get more fans of both schools seated in that stadium on Saturday. The players have earned it.  They deserve to have more fans there to cheer them on in this game.  The Governor is a doctor and he knows it can be done safely! Maybe JMU even can find it in their hearts to allocate another great Virginia institution — VMI – a few more than 500 tickets it has been allocated out of the more 6,000 available.”

Obenshain concluded, “I call on the Governor, a graduate of VMI, to immediately loosen his arbitrary capacity restrictions for outdoor sporting venues.  Moreover, the NCAA has no business setting capacity restrictions in Virginia’s stadiums.  Nor should their limits be more restrictive that those established by state health officials.  Relax the limits and let more fans of both teams attend the game on Saturday! The players and fans deserve it.”

Senator Obenshain represents the twenty-sixth district in the Senate of Virginia. The district includes the city of Harrisonburg and the counties of Warren, Shenandoah, Page Rappahannock and Rockingham (part). 

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Shenandoah County supervisors could consider letter opposing LFCC name change

April 16, 2021

By Brad Fauber The Northern Virginia Daily | Apr 16, 2021

Shenandoah County’s Board of Supervisors could soon consider whether or not to issue a letter in opposition to the decision made by Lord Fairfax Community College leadership earlier this year to change the Frederick County school’s name.

Supervisors briefly discussed the topic during Tuesday’s meeting, with District 5 Supervisor Dennis Morris suggesting they invite LFCC President Kim Blosser to their next meeting on April 27 to further discuss the name-change decision. Morris stated on Tuesday that Blosser had offered to meet with Shenandoah County supervisors to answer any questions they may have.

A vote on whether to issue a letter in opposition to the name change could take place during the Board of Supervisors’ May 11 meeting. Tuesday’s meeting agenda included copies of two letters opposing the name change sent to the State Board for Community Colleges: one signed by Virginia state senators Mark Obenshain and Jill Vogel and delegates Todd Gilbert, Michael Webert, David LaRock, Bill Wiley and Mark Cole, and another by the Rappahannock County Board of Supervisors.

LFCC, located in Middletown, announced in February that it was seeking a new name because its namesake – Thomas, the 6th Lord Fairfax of Cameron – was a Colonial-era slave owner. The school’s decision, according to the Winchester Star, followed months of study and focus-group discussions and was prompted by a resolution passed last summer by the State Board for Community Colleges asking all community colleges in the state to review their names.

To begin Tuesday’s discussion on the LFCC name change, Shenandoah County supervisors heard a 17-minute speech from film director Ron Maxwell, who lives in Rappahannock County and directed the Civil War films “Gettysburg” and “Gods and Generals,” and who called on Shenandoah County supervisors to join those in Rappahannock County in formally opposing LFCC’s decision.

Maxwell stated during his speech that society is witnessing an “exhibition of the woke trying to outdo one another in the woke sweepstakes” and that “history teaches us that each and every time the righteous urge to destroy is loosed upon a society, it is always cloaked as an improvement and is in every case regretted and deplored by subsequent generations.”

Maxwell further added that an “inescapable fact of history is that we … are the inheritors of all who came before, and that “as inheritors of this legacy it is our responsibility, in our brief moment on Earth, to safeguard the entirety of our past with all its content, art and history, the good, the bad, the ugly and the beautiful,” and that “to live only in the present tense is to live an impoverished life.”

“It is incumbent upon us, the living, to see people as they once were, in their full humanity … just as it’s incumbent upon our descendents 240 years from now to look on us the same way,” Maxwell said. “Otherwise, we have no culture, no history, no heritage, no shared humanity. We are simply set adrift, floating on an imaginary foundation made up of little more than this thin air of our own puritanical rectitude and moral narcissism.

“By the standards of the Lord Fairfax college board,” he continued, “we will soon embark on a renaming crusade as cities, counties, towns, parks, roads, schools and institutions of higher learning named after any of the generation who founded this country are removed and replaced one-by-one.”

Also on Tuesday, Shenandoah County supervisors discussed an amendment to the board’s meeting rules of procedure that would revise language in the order of business pertaining to the public comment section so that it matches a subsequent section in the rules that prohibit “public presentations on a matter for which a public hearing has been or will be held.” The public comment section in the order of business currently reads “Public Comment (other than matters previously the subject of a public hearing).”

The proposed amendment stems from the March 23 meeting during which Board of Supervisors Chairman Steve Baker prohibited public comments on the fiscal year 2022 budget, citing the public hearing on the matter scheduled for the following week.

– Contact Brad Fauber at [email protected]

Veto Session Wrap Up

April 8, 2021

Dear Friends,

As you may or may not know, a few weeks after Session ends each year, my fellow Senators and I gather for a one-day meeting called Reconvene Session. On this day, we vote yea or nay on any bills for which the Governor offered amendments and vote to overturn any bills he vetoed.

This year because Democrats in Richmond passed so many of his liberal priorities and defeated so many of the bills we sought to implement as conservatives, the Governor did not veto a single bill. 

However, he did offer amendments to a few bills, perhaps most significantly the bill to legalize recreational marijuana. 

Let me be clear, I remain opposed to the legalization of marijuana. 

And the fact that the legalization under this bill would not take place until 2024 did not change my opinion. That is why I was appalled when Governor Northam – in a fashion all too similar to the arbitrary and dictatorial way he yielded his authority during the COVID shutdown – decided to amend the bill to move legalization up to July of 2021 – yes, that is THIS July, less than 90 days from now. He bucked all the input and research that went into the 8,000-line bill, that his office actually crafted, he reversed course and determined that legalization should occur immediately. 

As if that was not bad enough, he slipped 4 lines of language into the bill that are wholly unrelated to this topic to throw a bone to the job-killing, left wing organized labor interests from whom he has received millions of campaign dollars. 

These are 4 lines provide that licensees who grow, manufacture or sell marijuana products will lose their licenses if they do not “remain neutral” in response to efforts of union organizers to unionize their businesses or if they do not pay a “prevailing wage” dictated by the U.S. Department of Labor. It is even worse than it sounds, as these businesses can be shut down if they block union organizers from trespassing on their property to solicit employees in their organizational efforts. This is a serious infringement upon the property rights of farmers and other business owners and it undermines Virginia’s status as a right-to-work state. 

Licensure of marijuana businesses was supposed to be a means of ensuring the safety of marijuana products being grown, manufactured and sold to the public — not a tool to force the unionization of the work force. 

Requiring business owners to allow union organizers to trespass on their property to solicit their employees has become a hot-button issue for right-to-work and property rights advocates. Only two weeks ago an appeal brought by the Pacific Legal Foundation on behalf of a California nursery owner was argued in the United States Supreme Court. There, union organizers trespassed on the business’s property asserting it as their right under a California state law that allows private-sector unions to come onto private property for three hours a day, 120 days out of the year, to recruit workers into joining their ranks. The language slipped into Virginia’s marijuana bill may be even more intrusive and disruptive. I hope that the Supreme Court will rule for the California businesses. For more information on that case click here

This bill is bad and this amendment is bad. Period. 

The Senate voted 20-20 and Justin Fairfax, the Lieutenant Governor and Democratic candidate for Governor, made the tie-breaking vote to pass these amendments.  Remember when Democrats and certain editorial pages urged Virginians to vote against the Constitutional Amendment to place Right to Work in our Constitution arguing that nobody wants to undermine our right to work laws? This action demonstrates the falsity of those assertions. 

In other news from yesterday’s session, the Democrats predictably voted to adopt the Governor’s $250,000 budget amendment to hire outside counsel to do a very limited and partisan “investigation” in response to the Parole Board scandal. The “investigation,” of course is a sham. It authorizes an investigation of the Office of the State Inspector General (OSIG), not the Parole Board.  What is needed is a real investigation; one that covers all of the widely reported incidents of Parole Board misconduct, the targeting and firing of the OSIG whistleblower, as well as the involvement, if any, of members of the offices of the Governor or the Attorney General in a cover-up.  Instead, now we will end up with a sham “investigation” that is nothing more than window-dressing designed to divert public attention from this serious and potentially dangerous breach of public trust.  For more on this you can read the Senate GOP Caucus statement below and the RTD story from last night here

As we conclude the 2021 Session, I will continue to fight for our shared conservative values and freedoms – support our small businesses, and our right-to-work laws. I support a strong and fair criminal justice system that keeps our communities safe while showing respect to victims, and those in law enforcement. It is an honor and privilege to serve the citizens of the 26th Senate District. 

I’m back in my district office in Harrisonburg and look forward to serving my constituents on state government related issues.  Please feel free to contact me at 540-437-1451 or at [email protected] .

Best,

Mark Obenshain

Parole Board Controversy Will Get Independent Investigation

April 8, 2021

By JAHD KHALIL  APR 8, 2021

Legislators approved a budget amendment funding an independent investigation into the Office of the State Inspector General Wednesday, as Republican lawmakers said the investigation’s scope sidestepped critical issues.ListenListening…1:17Jahd Khalil reports

The growing controversy stems from the inspector general’s office investigation of the process used by the parole board to grant parole to Vincent Martin, a man convicted of killing a police officer. Leaks later revealed a report to the governor was missing violations the inspector general included in an earlier draft. After a whistleblower filed a complaint, she was fired. She then sued the office over the termination.

The budget amendment creating the investigation says the Attorney General’s office will pick the investigator. It will do that with input from the Governor’s office and leadership from the General Assembly. The investigation will cost $250,000.

The House of Delegates approved the investigation on a party line vote. Before they did, accusations flew.

“This investigation – this so-called investigation – does not investigate anything about the parole board at all. It investigates the inspector general’s office,” said Delegate Todd Gilbert, the leader of House Republicans.”

Republicans want the inquiry to focus on the parole board itself, rather than the inspector general’s investigation of the parole board.

“We need to look at it all and let the chips fall where they may,” said Senator Mark Obenshain of Harrisonburg. “I think there’ve been somewhere near a dozen different investigations. But what this does is says, ‘we’re going to spend $250,000 looking at one, one single investigation by the office of the inspector general,’ and that’s of the Vincent Martin case.”

Democratic Delegate Don Scott said Republicans’ arguments stem from their opposition to parole generally.

“In their soul they’re opposed to parole. They opposed to second chances,” he said. He went on to say that they sought to politicise the issue. “They’ve told you that every time this is their election issue”

The Virginia Senate also approved the amendment after a much longer debate which included a lengthy debate over a parliamentary process in order to amend the provision to create their own investigatory committee.

Investigators will need to submit a written report by June 15th, 2021.

This report, provided by Virginia Public Radio, was made possible with support from the Virginia Education Association.

Democrats reject broad parole board probe in favor of limited investigation

April 8, 2021

By PATRICK WILSON Richmond Times-Dispatch | Apr 8, 2021

Democrats who control the General Assembly rejected a plan for a bipartisan special committee to investigate wrongdoing at the Virginia Parole Board, opting on Wednesday to fund a limited investigation into controversy involving one case.

The limited investigation authorizes Attorney General Mark Herring, in consultation with Gov. Ralph Northam and other Democratic leaders, to choose a law firm to investigate how and why allegations of wrongdoing at the parole board were not included in one state watchdog report last year. The cost could be up to $250,000.

Senate Republicans pushed to create a special committee with subpoena power to investigate the bigger picture of an ongoing scandal involving the parole board. That proposal died on a partisan vote of 21-19, but Sen. Joe Morrissey, D-Richmond, asked detailed questions about the plan and said there may come a time when such a committee is necessary.

Republicans — led by Sens. Steve Newman, R-Lynchburg, and Mark Obenshain, R-Rockingham — said a bipartisan investigation would be open and transparent, while the proposal from Northam for a limited investigation would be done under a contract with the attorney general’s office, and records would be exempt from the Freedom of Information Act.

Sen. Scott Surovell, D-Fairfax, said a special committee would require too much work by lawmakers. “I didn’t sign up to be in a full-time legislature,” he said. And the governor’s proposal, he said, was exactly the investigation that had been requested.

But the investigation the General Assembly approved directs a law firm to look into how the Office of the State Inspector General investigated only one case involving the parole board.

“The scope is nowhere near correct,” said Newman, who warned there would come a day when a fuller investigation will be needed.

Republicans in the House and Senate brought up things that the investigation won’t go into, like allegations that the former parole board chairwoman released more than 100 parolees from supervision unilaterally and without any recommendation, and that she had notifications turned off for the surrogate grandmother of a murder victim when the killer was going to be paroled.

“We were told that we would have a full investigation into the parole board matter,” said House Minority Leader Todd Gilbert, R-Shenandoah. “Madam Speaker, you and I both know that something is very rotten at the parole board. We know this because we got a full packet of information from a whistleblower about what is going on.”

Lawmakers debated the issue Wednesday when they convened to consider the governor’s amendments to legislation passed earlier this year.

The ongoing scandal began last year when the Office of the State Inspector General began finding misconduct by the parole board. OSIG completed reports saying the parole board and its former chairwoman, Adrianne Bennett, now a judge in Virginia Beach, violated state law and policy, including at times not notifying the family of victims that convicted killers were being paroled.

The lead OSIG investigator, Jennifer Moschetti, provided records to lawmakers earlier this year and filed a lawsuit acknowledging she had done so and asking for whistleblower protection.

Some of the records that were obtained by news media, including the Richmond Times-Dispatch, related to the parole board’s release last year of Vincent Martin, who was convicted in the 1979 killing of a Richmond police officer. While the final OSIG report was six pages, a longer report of 13 pages — apparently a draft — contained more allegations of wrongdoing.

Moschetti’s lawsuit accused Herring’s office of sanitizing the report and said the governor’s staff was so intimidating in a meeting with OSIG about the case that Inspector General Michael Westfall feared for his job.

Westfall reports to the governor, who appoints the five members of the parole board.

The attorney general and governor’s office deny those allegations. Westfall fired Moschetti, who then dropped her lawsuit. But several OSIG investigations of the parole board apparently remain pending, and it’s unclear if Westfall plans to complete them.

The probe approved by lawmakers relates to how OSIG looked into the parole board’s handling of the Martin investigation.

Del. Mark Levine, D-Alexandria, said he reached out to Northam’s general counsel, Rita Davis, and she wrote back to tell him what the investigation will cover.

An independent third party will look into whether the final inspector general report on the Martin case resulted from normal office practices or from any undue political influence, and it should determine the reasons OSIG omitted some material in its final report, Levine said.

The investigator should determine whether OSIG substantiated the allegations in the longer Martin report that were not included in the final report, he said.

A report is supposed to be completed by June 15.

The parole board and marijuana dominated Wednesday’s debates, but the assembly also approved all of Northam’s 18 proposed amendments to the two-year state budget.

Several of the amendments addressed potential uses of federal COVID-19 emergency aid — primarily for Medicaid and child care — until the General Assembly meets in special session later this year to determine how Virginia will spend billions of dollars in funding under the American Rescue Plan Act enacted on March 11.

[email protected]

(804) 649-6061

Twitter: @patrickmwilson

Staff writer Michael Martz contributed to this report.

Local lawmakers remember delegate and professor Pete Giesen

April 7, 2021

By Caitlin Piemme
Published: Apr. 6, 2021 at 5:42 PM EDT

HARRISONBURG, Va. (WHSV) — Valley lawmakers are mourning the loss of former Virginia Delegate Pete Giesen, who died last week.

State Senator Mark Obenshain reflected on their time spent together and the legacy Giesen leaves behind here in the Shenandoah Valley.

“He was really instrumental, I would say, in the realignment of Virginia politics that took place in the 1970s and 1980s, and turned Virginia from a one-party state to a two-party state,” Obenshain said.

Obenshain also shared that Geisen was a friend to four generations of Obenshains, and they both have a family legacy of lawmakers.

Like Obenshain, Delegate Kirk Cox remained close with Giesen as he moved on to teach politics at James Madison University.

“He loved life. I never saw him without a smile on his face. He loved Virginia, he loved JMU, he loved just being part of the process,” said Cox. “He felt like that, you know this experiment, you know this grand experiment of representative democracy needed to be preserved.”

In addition to the change he brought to Virginia politics, Obenshain says he remembers him for the impact he had on his students at James Madison University.

“Pete will be remembered for building bridges, he’ll be remembered for standing up for what he believed in and for making sure that a new generation of college students understood a little bit about Virginia political history,” said Obenshain.

Cox adds Giesen was a great role model of what a public servant should be.

“That’s what people remember, that good, happy, positive man he was, in frankly an era we don’t see that enough anymore,” Cox said. “And how he got along with everyone. So that to me was his legacy.”

A memorial resolution for Giesen will be considered and passed at the next general assembly.

Copyright 2021 WHSV. All rights reserved.

Democrats reject broad parole board probe in favor of limited investigation

April 7, 2021

Patrick Wilson | Apr 7, 2021

Democrats who control the General Assembly rejected a plan for a bipartisan special committee to investigate wrongdoing at the Virginia Parole Board, opting on Wednesday to fund a limited investigation into controversy involving one case.

The limited investigation authorizes Attorney General Mark Herring, in consultation with Gov. Ralph Northam and other Democratic leaders, to choose a law firm to investigate how and why allegations of wrongdoing at the parole board were not included in one state watchdog report last year. The cost could be up to $250,000.

Senate Republicans pushed to create a special committee with subpoena power to investigate the bigger picture of an ongoing scandal involving the parole board. That proposal died on a partisan vote of 21-19, but Sen. Joe Morrissey, D-Richmond, asked detailed questions about the plan and said there may come a time when such a committee is necessary.

Republicans — led by Sens. Steve Newman, R-Lynchburg, and Mark Obenshain, R-Rockingham — said a bipartisan investigation would be open and transparent, while the proposal from Northam for a limited investigation would be done under a contract with the attorney general’s office, and records would be exempt from the Freedom of Information Act.

Sen. Scott Surovell, D-Fairfax, said a special committee would require too much work by lawmakers. “I didn’t sign up to be in a full-time legislature,” he said. And the governor’s proposal, he said, was exactly the investigation that had been requested.

But the investigation the General Assembly approved directs a law firm to look into how the Office of the State Inspector General investigated only one case involving the parole board.

“The scope is nowhere near correct,” said Newman, who warned there would come a day when a fuller investigation will be needed.

Republicans in the House and Senate brought up things that the investigation won’t go into, like allegations that the former parole board chairwoman released more than 100 parolees from supervision unilaterally and without any recommendation, and that she had notifications turned off for the surrogate grandmother of a murder victim when the killer was going to be paroled.

“We were told that we would have a full investigation into the parole board matter,” said House Minority Leader Todd Gilbert, R-Shenandoah. “Madam Speaker, you and I both know that something is very rotten at the parole board. We know this because we got a full packet of information from a whistleblower about what is going on.”

Lawmakers debated the issue Wednesday when they convened to consider the governor’s amendments to legislation passed earlier this year.

The ongoing scandal began last year when the Office of the State Inspector General began finding misconduct by the parole board. OSIG completed reports saying the parole board and its former chairwoman, Adrianne Bennett, now a judge in Virginia Beach, violated state law and policy, including at times not notifying the family of victims that convicted killers were being paroled.

The lead OSIG investigator, Jennifer Moschetti, provided records to lawmakers earlier this year and filed a lawsuit acknowledging she had done so and asking for whistleblower protection.

Some of the records that were obtained by news media, including the Richmond Times-Dispatch, related to the parole board’s release last year of Vincent Martin, who was convicted in the 1979 killing of a Richmond police officer. While the final OSIG report was six pages, a longer report of 13 pages — apparently a draft — contained more allegations of wrongdoing.

Moschetti’s lawsuit accused Herring’s office of sanitizing the report and said the governor’s staff was so intimidating in a meeting with OSIG about the case that Inspector General Michael Westfall feared for his job.

Westfall reports to the governor, who appoints the five members of the parole board.

The attorney general and governor’s office deny those allegations. Westfall fired Moschetti, who then dropped her lawsuit. But several OSIG investigations of the parole board apparently remain pending, and it’s unclear if Westfall plans to complete them.

The probe approved by lawmakers relates to how OSIG looked into the parole board’s handling of the Martin investigation.

Del. Mark Levine, D-Alexandria, said he reached out to Northam’s general counsel, Rita Davis, and she wrote back to tell him what the investigation will cover.

An independent third party will look into whether the final inspector general report on the Martin case resulted from normal office practices or from any undue political influence, and it should determine the reasons OSIG omitted some material in its final report, Levine said.

The investigator should determine whether OSIG substantiated the allegations in the longer Martin report that were not included in the final report, he said.

A report is supposed to be completed by June 15.

The parole board and marijuana dominated Wednesday’s debates, but the assembly also approved all of Northam’s 18 proposed amendments to the two-year state budget.

Several of the amendments addressed potential uses of federal COVID-19 emergency aid — primarily for Medicaid and child care — until the General Assembly meets in special session later this year to determine how Virginia will spend billions of dollars in funding under the American Rescue Plan Act enacted on March 11.

[email protected]

(804) 649-6061

Twitter: @patrickmwilson

Staff writer Michael Martz contributed to this report.

Obenshain Says Governor’s Call for Investigation of OSIG’s Parole Board Inquiry is a “Pure Partisan Whitewash”

April 1, 2021

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

CONTACT:  Connor Smith

PHONE: (904) 235-3562

EMAIL:  c[email protected]

Obenshain Says Governor’s Call for Investigation of OSIG’s Parole Board Inquiry is a “Pure Partisan Whitewash”

HARRISONBURG – Today, Senator Mark Obenshain (R-Rockingham) released the following statement about Governor Northam’s announcement of a budget amendment to pay for a so-called independent investigation of the Office of the Inspector General.

“Today the Governor released many of his proposed amendments to the budget, including one to add $250,000 for an ‘independent’ investigation of the Office of the Inspector General (OSIG) and its investigation into Vincent Martin’s parole case,” said Obenshain.

He continued, “To be clear, while the Governor and his clique have seemingly been promising an investigation of the Parole Board and its actions, this is not such an investigation. The amendment clearly states that it will be an investigation of the OSIG investigators who had the temerity to reveal pervasive misconduct by the Parole Board.”

The amendment states that the “investigator” (law firm) is going to be hired by the Attorney General in consultation with the Governor’s office, the Speaker of the House and the President pro tempore of the Senate.

“There is nothing independent about the investigation,” said Obenshain. “It is nothing more than a partisan whitewash of a scandal that has dogged this Administration for the past year. It is pure partisan damage control. There appear to be nearly a dozen official inquiries into misconduct by the Governor’s Parole Board and this will address none of that. It is carefully cabined to inquire into the OSIG’s actions in looking into a single complaint.”

Obenshain concluded, “If the Governor were serious, he would have called for an investigation into the Parole Board misconduct as well as the allegations of an organized cover-up. If he were really serious, he would fire the whole Parole Board.”

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.

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Senator Obenshain Comments on Democrats’ Campaign to Block Parole Transparency

February 27, 2021

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

CONTACT:  Jennifer Aulgur

PHONE: (540) 437-1451

EMAIL:  [email protected]

Senator Mark Obenshain Comments on Democrats’ Campaign to Block Parole Board Transparency 

RICHMOND, VA, February 26, 2021 – Senator Mark Obenshain (R-Rockingham) commented today on the General Assembly Democrats to water down legislation (HB2167 and SB1104) requiring accountability and transparency from Governor Northam’s Parole Board.

“Today, Democrats passed a conference report on so-called parole transparency legislation that does little but give the illusion of reform. The Northam Administration is desperate to look like it is doing something to address the growing Parole Board scandal and it urged Democrats to pass a bill that won’t provide any additional transparency until long after Northam and his Parole Board are but tiny specks in the rearview mirror.

House Bill 2167 contains a provision that will delay the implementation of any additional transparency until July 1, 2022. I could have lived with any of the other changes proposed to the bill, but I will not be complicit in a cynical effort to give the Governor the ability to claim that he supports more transparency when we all know that he does not.

This Governor and his administration have consistently endeavored to shield his Parole Board from criticism for its pattern of improper actions. The executive branch has circled the wagons, hidden reports from the state’s watchdog, engaged in efforts to silence dissent and now has enlisted his allies in the legislature in efforts to advance a “transparency” bill that is anything but transparent.

This is part of an effort by the Governor and his accomplices to block any legislation that remotely resembles any meaningful reform that would expose the actions of the Parole Board to any additional sunlight or accountability. I will not be a party to this effort.

Revelations about the Parole Board – both from last May and October, as well as the recent allegations that surfaced this week – point to the need for Governor Northam to clean house and immediately fire the Parole Board members.  Additionally, these repeated transgressions necessitate we act now to impose measures that will ensure accountability and transparency for the Board moving forward.

This is what I attempted to accomplish by filing legislation in the 2020 Special Session, and again this year with my SB 1104.  This legislation received unanimous bipartisan approval in the Senate last year and again this year.  However, the House of Delegates amended the bill to make the provisions within it little but window dressing with phony transparency. SB 1104 has died because I would not agree to these amendments.

The Democrats’ amendments to the bills, would no longer require the Parole Board to confirm or certify to anyone that it has complied with its obligations to notify victims and Commonwealth Attorneys of the impending release of felons convicted of serious crimes. These are the very laws that the Parole Board has been accused of consistently violating and this is the one provision in the legislation that could have prevented further releases of criminals without providing notice to crime victims.

I declined to sign the conference report and asked that it be rejected so that we could get a new conference that would strip the delayed enactment clause. That effort failed on a 20-18 vote*,” Obenshain said.

*One Senator failed to vote on the conference report, but filed a statement that his intention was to vote against the conference report, which would have resulted in a 20-19 vote.

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.

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Senator Obenshain Comments on New Parole Board Revelations

February 25, 2021

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

CONTACT:  Jennifer Aulgur

PHONE: (540) 437-1451

EMAIL:  [email protected]

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

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