Press

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:  connor@markobenshain.com

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:  jennifer@markobenshain.com

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:  jennifer@markobenshain.com

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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