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Governor Says He Can’t Fire Parole Board Members

January 16, 1992

LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) _ Gov. Ben Nelson said Wednesday he can’t fire three Parole Board members who refused his request that they quit after they paroled a convicted murderer who was charged with another killing soon after his release.

But Nelson said he’ll urge the Legislature to change the board’s rules.

A report from hearing officer Ed Perry said there’s no cause to remove Marlene Cupp, Mike McLaughlin or Leland Oberg from the five-member board.

In September, Nelson sought their resignations. When they refused, he asked for an administrative hearing.

Perry’s report to the governor, dated Jan. 9, found insufficient evidence to support Nelson’s charges. Nelson said they acted irresponsibly and endangered the public by paroling Ronald Fort on July 22.

Perry, who was appointed by the governor, determined there were no legal standards the board ignored when it voted to parole Fort.

Less than a month after his release he was arrested on first degree murder charges in connection with the killing Baron Smith, 25. Fort has pleaded innocent and remains jailed.

″While I still wish they would resign, and I believe public confidence has been lost in them, it doesn’t look like they’re going to,″ Nelson said.

Cupp, Oberg and McLaughlin didn’t immediately return messages left at their offices Wednesday.

The three had decided to release Fort at a hearing attended by neither board chairman Ronald Bartee nor the board vice chairman. Bartee had recommended against paroling Fort.

Bartee announced Wednesday that he’d resign effective Feb. 21, but said the resignation had nothing to do with the controversy.

Nelson said he asked state Sen. Jerry Chizek to carry a bill that would require all five members to attend parole hearings for murder convicts. Chizek, chairman of the Judiciary Committee, said it was a good idea.

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