County mistakenly withheld records showing sheriff learned of jail death as it happened

Sheriff Ian Parkinson's phone records show he learned of Andrew Holland's death at San Luis Obispo County Jail on the night it occurred, but they weren't reported to the public due to an "oversight" by the county's legal team.

Parkinson asked that the county counsel release the records this week, he said, after they were omitted from a recent public records act request. That mistake added fuel to questions about when Parkinson learned of the death.

In fact, the county now acknowledges that Parkinson handed over the phone records in September, but they were forgotten.

Family members of Holland — a 36-year-old Atascadero man who died in County Jail Jan. 22, 2017, after jail staff left him in a restraint chair for nearly two days — have claimed that Parkinson told them in March 2017 that he knew Holland had been put in the chair on Jan. 20, 2017, and approved the action.

Parkinson denies that and says he was first notified of Holland's treatment and death on Jan. 22, 2017, while attending a private event to welcome the Women's Shelter's new executive director.

In response to a Tribune article Tuesday that questioned why the county wouldn't produce or acknowledge the existence of cell phone records that would confirm Parkinson's account, the county — with permission from Parkinson — released on Wednesday several records that confirm Parkinson's statement.

Andrew Chaylon Holland Courtesy of the Holland family

Parkinson is seeking a third term in the June 5 Primary Election and is being challenged by former San Luis Obispo police officer Greg Clayton. Parkinson and Clayton participated in a candidate debate Wednesday night and didn't immediately respond to request for comment late Wednesday.

In the debate, Parkinson called claims that he knew about Holland's restraint on Jan. 20, 2017, "unsubstantiated banter."

How sheriff was notified

Documents released Wednesday show that Parkinson received a text message from dispatch at 5:21 p.m. on Jan. 22, 2017, that alerted him to medics en route to the jail for an unresponsive inmate and stated that CPR was in progress. Jail video of Holland's death obtained by The Tribune shows that Cal Fire medics arrived to administer CPR to Holland at 5:21 p.m.

A Verizon statement for Parkinson's work cell phone provided Wednesday shows that Parkinson not receive any calls on Friday, Jan. 20, within two hours before Holland was placed in the restraint chair, nor did he receive calls the rest of the night. On the morning of Saturday, Jan. 21, he received three calls that lasted from one to two minutes and which Parkinson said were unrelated to Holland.

Records do not show Parkinson receiving or making another call from the phone until Sunday, Jan. 22, at 5:52 p.m. — more than a half-hour after he received the text alert of an unresponsive inmate.

Between 5:52 p.m. and 7:24 p.m., Parkinson made nine calls and received three others ranging from two to six minutes long. A timeline written by Parkinson and released Wednesday says that Parkinson called his watch commander, Undersheriff Tim Olivas, a since-retired custody captain, a detectives commander, the internal affairs commander and former County Chief Administrative Officer Dan Buckshi.

County Counsel Rita Neal clarified Wednesday that the one text and those 12 calls are the only communications involving Parkinson related to Andrew Holland at that time, including from Parkinson's personal phone.

Family's response

Tave Holland, Andrew's cousin and a San Luis Obispo-based attorney who has represented the family in making requests for records related to the death, has previously questioned why the county had not acknowledged the phone records to back up Parkinson's claim.

"I think this is a prime example of the sheriff and the county releasing these records when it's politically expedient, not when they are legally required to," Tave Holland said Wednesday.

Andrew Holland's treatment and death has made national headlines and highlighted serious lapses in San Luis Obispo County's protocols for treating and housing mentally ill inmates.

The county says it's responded to more than 50 public records requests related to Holland's death, Neal said in a statement Wednesday. The Tribune has made at least seven separate requests related to Holland and the County Jail.

One of those, sent in August 2017, requested records of Parkinson's and other county officials' communications around the time of Holland's death. That request was ultimately denied because it was overbroad and would have contained security and other confidential information.

However, according to Neal's letter, Parkinson supplied the County Counsel's Office with the phone records in September 2017 in response to The Tribune, but the County Counsel's Office determined at the time that they were exempt from release.

"In early September 2017, in response to (The Tribune's) request, we did in fact receive from the sheriff phone records," Neal's letter reads. "At the time, no one was calling into question that and when the sheriff knew about the events surrounding Andrew's death."

She continued: "Had this been the case, it would have factored into our consideration as to whether to release information otherwise protected from disclosure. ..."

In December 2017, Tave Holland made a records request also seeking Parkinson's communications from the weekend of Andrew Holland's death. The county responded Friday that it did not have records responsive to Tave Holland's request.

Even if a record contains private information and cannot be released, the county must acknowledge whether such a record exists. But the county on Friday did not acknowledge the existence of any communication to Parkinson about Holland that weekend, nor did it respond to repeated requests from The Tribune for clarification.

"Unfortunately, due to the voluminous amount of (public records requests) we have received and the plethora of records this office has reviewed surrounding Andrew's death, county counsel staff did not recall the cell phone records that the sheriff had transmitted in or around August 2017," Neal wrote.

County admits "oversight"

Neal wrote that Tave Holland's email from Friday was forwarded on Monday to Parkinson, who "immediately questioned his staff about the telephone records he had previously directed be forwarded to this office in response to The Tribune's request."

County counsel then located those records and released them Wednesday.

"We regret that this oversight has now cast additional doubt on the sheriff's previous statements regarding when he learned of the events surrounding Andrew's death," Neal wrote.

The Holland family remains skeptical.

"I remain concerned that the sheriff lied to me (in March 2017)," Tave Holland said Wednesday. "Assuming these records are correct, it concerns me that he doesn't know what's happening in his jail."

Matt Fountain 781-7909, @mattfountain1
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