Northam ‘welcomes’ investigation into draft report on Va. Parole Board as IG says governor’s office never got a copy

Virginia News

Virginia Parole Board (Photo: 8News)

RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — Virginia’s inspector general claimed in a sworn affidavit that Gov. Ralph Northam’s office did not receive a recently leaked draft report that included allegations of wrongdoing against the state’s parole board that were not in a final report sent to the governor.

The state’s inspector general, Michael Westfall, signed the affidavit under oath Friday at the governor’s request, asserting the Office of the State Inspector General initially only provided Northam with a final six-page report into an investigation of the Virginia Parole Board’s handling of Vincent Martin’s case.

The affidavit also states Northam played no role in editing a previously unseen 13-page draft report that was leaked to the media and prompted a bipartisan call for a General Assembly investigation last week.

The final report, shared with Northam on July 23, 2020, found the board and its former chairwoman, Adrianne Bennett, violated state law and its own procedures before Martin was paroled in June 2020. The draft report, first obtained by WTVR and later by WRIC, suggested additional misconduct claims by the board in Martin’s case that may have been withheld in the final report.

The longer version includes claims that Bennett directed employees to falsify a report and violate their own ethics. “On March 30, 2020, Former Chair Bennett requesting that a Hearing Examiner falsify a report as their own within Martin’s file,” the report said. The draft report also alleges that Bennett failed to fulfill her duty to remain impartial, violating the state constitution.

Rita Davis, the governor’s legal counsel, requested a copy of the draft report from Westfall in multiple letters after the news broke. The inspector general eventually provided the report Friday evening to those in Northam’s administration who said they never saw a copy, including Brian Moran, Northam’s secretary of public safety and homeland security.

Westfall said claims in the draft report were not included in last year’s final report because they “were not supported” after additional review.

“OSIG’s report went through OSIG’s normal, internal review process, which includes a review of scope, facts, findings and verifiable information,” Westfall said in a statement Monday. “Any preliminary allegations that were not included in a final report were not supported by a further review of law and facts necessary to be included in a final report.”

Two Virginia lawmakers, state Sens. John Bell (D-Loudoun) and Bryce Reeves (R-Spotsylvania), cited “serious” and “damaging allegations” of misconduct surrounding the release Martin, who was sentenced to life in prison after being found guilty in the killing of Richmond patrolman Michael P. Connors in 1979, after the draft report was made public.

A spokeswoman for the governor said Monday that Northam backs an independent investigation into the matter, but noted that Westfall has not reported or shared any alleged violations of the law to a prosecutor as he required to do if he has reason to believe they have merit.

“After reviewing the preliminary findings, it is clear the public needs to better understand why and how the OSIG determined that these initial allegations were insufficient to include in their final report,” Alena Yarmosky, Northam’s spokeswoman, said in an email. “Individuals named in this document also deserve the opportunity to defend their reputations against assertions that were never included in the final report.”

“The Governor welcomes further outside investigation,” she added. At this time, no investigation in the legislature has been announced.

An ongoing review of the leak is underway, however, with the inspector general asking Virginia State Police to look “into the manner and mechanism in which a draft report by the Office of the State Inspector General was publicly released without the agency’s consent,” Corrine Geller, a police spokeswoman, confirmed in a statement.

An unredacted version of the final six-page report, shared by Republican lawmakers in August 2020, specifically said the board failed to reach out to Connors’ family or the Richmond Commonwealth’s Attorney as required. GOP legislators called on the entire Parole Board to resign in the aftermath but they did not and Northam’s administration deflected pressure to replace them.

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