The Bulletin

State investigator fired following Va. Parole Board disclosures, attorney says

By: - March 22, 2021 5:03 pm

The offices of the Virginia Parole Board in Richmond. (Virginia Mercury)

The state employee who played a key role in investigating complaints against the Virginia Parole Board last year was fired from her job Monday, according to her attorney.

Jennifer Moschetti, a senior investigator with the Office of the Inspector General, had been seeking whistleblower protection after apparently sharing details of what she found with the General Assembly. But she had not yet been given a hearing in Richmond Circuit Court after filing a motion to potentially save her job on March 8.

Her attorney, Tim Anderson, said preventing termination was “the specific purpose” of her pending lawsuit, which she filed shortly after she was put on paid leave March 5. Because her firing makes the issue moot, he said, that particular suit will be dropped but the legal battle could continue in some other form.

“Ms. Moschetti will begin now the process of exploring the legal remedies she now has for wrongful employment termination and intentional injuries to her reputation,” Anderson said in an email.

Moschetti’s reports, which identified a pattern of violations by the Parole Board last year that mainly involved the board failing to properly notify prosecutors of its decisions and neglecting its duties to let crime victims’ families give meaningful input in the process, have been at the center of a political controversy that dates back to last summer.

An initial report on the case of parolee Vincent Martin, who served 40 years after being convicted of killing a Richmond police officer, was kept almost entirely hidden from the media before Republican General Assembly leaders released an unredacted copy. A subsequent batch of reports were also heavily redacted, and the inspector general’s office refused to give full versions to General Assembly leaders.

That secrecy was upended this year when apparently leaked documents began surfacing in news reports, offering new details on the extent of the violations formally substantiated by the inspector general’s office last year.

Democratic Gov. Ralph Northam’s administration has pushed back against many of those findings, largely defending the Parole Board’s actions while questioning the accuracy of the watchdog reports.

“As of today, the only government employee receiving any consequences in the parole board investigation is now the investigator herself,” said Anderson, a lawyer involved in several lawsuits against Democratic officials who is running for the House of Delegates this year as a Republican.

Clark Mercer, Northam’s chief of staff, publicly accused Moschetti of bias and faulted her for hiring an unabashedly partisan lawyer.

Anderson had argued Moschetti should be protected under Virginia’s whistleblower law, meant to allow employees to report wrongdoing without fear of retaliation. Northam officials had suggested unauthorized disclosures from the inspector general’s office could potentially impact future investigations by the agency, preventing others from coming forward with information for fear it could be leaked.

The inspector general’s office has previously declined to comment on disciplinary actions being taken against Moschetti, but her attorney filed documents in court showing she received a bonus and a positive performance evaluation for her work on the Parole Board cases.

The inspector general’s office would not offer specifics on why Moschetti was fired.

“The Office of the State Inspector General (OSIG) models integrity, trust and ethical behavior and demonstrates the highest standards of honesty, respect and accountability,” agency spokeswoman Kate Hourin said in an email. “For privacy reasons, OSIG cannot comment on personnel matters.”

Northam’s office did not immediately return a request for comment.

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Graham Moomaw
Graham Moomaw

A veteran Virginia politics reporter, Graham grew up in Hillsville and Lynchburg, graduating from James Madison University and earning a master's degree in journalism from the University of Maryland. Before joining the Mercury in 2019, he spent six years at the Richmond Times-Dispatch, most of that time covering the governor's office, the General Assembly and state politics. He also covered city hall and politics at The Daily Progress in Charlottesville.