Council rejects Baker’s pick for parole board

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Audit finds parole board not properly administering collection of supervision fees

BOSTON (SHNS) – The Governor’s Council on Wednesday rejected Gov. Charlie Baker’s latest nominee for the Parole Board, Sherquita HoSang of Springfield, with members questioning her preparations and qualifications.

Councilors voted 5-3 against confirming HoSang to a four-year term, with Councilors Joseph Ferreira, Terrence Kennedy and Mary Hurley voting in favor of the nominee and the five other councilors opposed.

The eight-member elected body approves nearly all of the governor’s judicial nominees, and Wednesday’s vote marked a rare instance in which the all-Democrat panel flexed its authority to turn down Baker’s selections.

HoSang would have filled an open seat on the Parole Board with a term to expire Sept. 14, 2025.

A former social worker and juvenile probation officer who is now a member of the Sex Offender Registry Board, HoSang told the council during her confirmation hearing last week that she is a “multi-dimensional candidate” who would handle the Parole Board job with empathy and attention to each petitioner’s individual circumstances.

She faced questions about her willingness to recuse herself from cases involving the Springfield Police Department, where her husband is an officer, and about the amount of work she did to familiarize herself with the Parole Board.

Councilors who voted against HoSang’s nomination said they believe the board needs substantial reform, describing delays inmates face when seeking release to serve the remainder of their terms in the community.

“I want to see a nominee who’s well-versed in the present board’s function and has a vision for how it can improve,” said Councilor Paul DePalo, who voted to reject HoSang. “This nominee, in preparation for the hearing, had not read the Harvard study on racial disparities, was not familiar with the legislative commission on structural racism in the parole system, nor the Mass. Bar Association’s clemency task force, nor the state auditor’s audit of the Parole Board, nor the Department of Justice’s report on Massachusetts’ Department of Correction.”

“This nominee is a dedicated public servant who’s served the commonwealth with integrity and is an exemplary member of the Sex Offender Registry Board, but I don’t believe she’s the person we need on the Parole Board at this urgent moment,” DePalo added.

Before casting her vote, Councilor Marilyn Devaney said HoSang’s answers to the questions that councilors posed demonstrated she is “unqualified” for the Parole Board.

“To bring someone like her is a detriment to justice,” she said. “The citizens deserve better, and the justice system deserves better. I will be voting no.”

Hurley, whose district includes HoSang’s residence in Springfield, applauded HoSang’s background in social work and noted her identity as a woman of color. She said she hoped to see quick action on the nomination because the Parole Board has had an opening since March.

“The one thing that not getting this nominee through will accomplish is further delays and further lack of justice with that seat being vacant,” Hurley said.

Hurley also referenced the tension surrounding the council’s 2019 vote to approve Springfield prosecutor Karen McCarthy as a member of the Parole Board.

At the time, several councilors contended there were too many law enforcement voices on the Parole Board. McCarthy has since left the panel.

“(HoSang) is the kind of candidate that everybody said they wanted when Karen McCarthy got creamed, literally and figuratively,” Hurley said.

The Parole Board, which features six members plus a chair, decides which inmates will be granted parole, and may recommend commutations or pardons. In 2019, the board approved 2,764 institutional releases and denied 1,530 others following hearings.

DePalo said the Parole Board has only held two commutation hearings in the past six years, which he called a “failure” that “perpetuates injustice.”

The council on Wednesday also unanimously approved Baker’s nomination of Boston attorney James Budreau to serve as an associate justice of the Superior Court.

Councilor Christopher Iannella described Budreau, who has worked as a partner at Bassil & Budreau since 2013, as “an outstanding nominee,” while Councilor Devaney called him “what we need in that court.”

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