After news spread of Missouri Parole Board member Don Ruzicka's habit of playing word games during parole hearings, Ruzicka has officially resigned.
According to Vocative, Ruzicka had attempted to "lighten the mood" of parole hearings by playing a game in which he and an unnamed analyst would attempt to sneak secret, arbitrary key words into discussions. Some of the words, for example, were platypus, armadillo, egg, egging, egged, biomass, and manatee. Extra "points" were awarded for getting in song titles. The two also coordinated their outfits. They were noticed frequently laughing over the game.
“We just thought it would lighten the mood and change it up,” the analyst told Inspector General Amy Roderick, according to the report.
“The parole board plays an important role in the public safety of Missouri communities,” said Board Chairman Kenny Jones. “Members of the board must be held to a higher standard.”
“It is shameful and outrageous that after an internal investigation, reports to the highest level of the Parole Board, and undisputed findings that Ruzicka literally played games with legal hearings he was supposed to be supervising – that this man is still allowed to decide upon the course of people’s lives,” Mae Quinn, the director of MacArthur Justice Center, said in a statement.
Now, a week after original reports of the game went live, Ruzicka has resigned. The men had been questioned by the Missouri Department of Corrections Office in September; a report from the state’s Department of Corrections Office of the Inspector General found that Ruzicka and the analyst had violated policy. It's unclear if the two faced any internal consequences from the incident.
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