The Senate voted 24-16 on Monday to confirm Thomas Hoffman to head the Division of Adult Parole Operations at the Department of Corrections.
The vote was a defeat for Republican senators, who had sought to derail Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger’s nominee over allegations that Hoffman had sought to undercut the Board of Parole Hearings. All 15 GOP senators voted against Hoffman, joined by moderate Democrat Lou Correa, D-Santa Ana.
Hoffman, 52, is a career police officer and a Republican. But some GOP senators took issue with what they allege was an attempt by Hoffman to undercut the Parole Board and give more discretion to Corrections staff on parole matters after taking over the post last August 11. In a press release at the end of June, Senator Bob Dutton, R-Rancho Cucamonga, said Hoffman “openly advocates violating the law.” Senator Jeff Denham, R-Merced, termed him “a threat to public safety.”
Hoffman counters that the case against him was built on a series of e-mails that were used out of context.
“The indictment of my ethics and morality is really troubling,” Hoffman said. He added: “I’m trying to fix a situation that has been broken since October 2002.”
Hoffman was referring to a memorandum of understanding between Corrections and the Parole Board relating to what parole violations Corrections must report to the Board. This goes back the implementation of Proposition 36, an initiative that calls for diverting many offenders to drug treatment and other programs.
At the time, Hoffman said, the Parole Board essentially delegated some authority in determining what violations had to be reported. There is still a long list of violations in which Corrections has no choice but to report to the Board, he said. This includes almost any possible violation involving violence or possession of guns or drugs.
What Republican senators are calling a secret plan, he said, was no more than the start of an effort to get regulations written into law. Given that any change would have numerous fiscal, labor and other implications, he simply doesn’t not have the power to push through secret regulations, as is being alleged, Hoffman said.
Crime victim’s rights groups have been pressuring the Senate to reject Hoffman. On June 28, Christine Ward, executive director of the Doris Tate Crime Victims Bureau, sent a letter to all senators urging Hoffman’s defeat. She referred to him as “sneaky” and accused him of trying to “undercut parole-board hearings.”
Correa’s chief of staff, John Scriber said the his boss’ “no” vote came in response to communications from victim’s rights groups.
GOP senators based their case against Hoffman on a series of May e-mails between Hoffman and Corrections staff. An agreement cut during the administration of Governor Gray Davis gives Corrections staff some leeway on whether to report minor parole violations to the Parole Board.
According to his critics, Hoffman’s e-mail trail shows that he sought to expand and codify the ability to withhold information from the Parole Board. In one e-mail, Hoffman writes to Scott Kernan, chief deputy secretary of Adult Operations at Corrections, “the political and social climate is right for us to push through a rewrite” of regulations around parole-board hearings. He goes on to ask, “Would you like us to take a lead on the rewrite? My staff and I are confident this would have a significant impact on our