Investigations

When did sheriff learn of Andrew Holland's restraint? SLO County has no record

Sheriff Ian Parkinson has said he only learned Andrew Holland spent 46 hours in a jail restraint chair after the inmate died, but San Luis Obispo County officials say they don't have communication records from the weekend that could prove what Parkinson knew, and when he knew it.

The family of 36-year-old Andrew Holland — a mentally ill Atascadero man who died of an embolism caused by a blood clot in SLO County Jail on Jan. 22, 2017 — says that Parkinson told them after Holland's death that he knew Holland had been put in a restraint chair two days before his death.

But records of Parkinson's work-related communications on the weekend of Jan. 20-22, 2017, which were provided to the Holland family and local media in response to public records requests, call into question the sheriff's claim that he only learned about the restraint after Holland's death.

"That’s the first I’d heard the name Holland, and been aware of it," Parkinson told The Tribune in an April 7 interview.

The county, however, has not backed up that claim with any documentation.

Namely, it has not produced or acknowledged the existence of any record of a phone call, email or any other communication to Parkinson on Jan. 22, the night Holland died. The sheriff says he was notified of the death while he was at a private county residence attending a fundraiser for the county's Women's Shelter.

An attendee at the event confirmed Parkinson's presence that night, though the person said they did not witness him on the phone or receiving any other notification.

Parkinson has also said that he wasn't involved in any way with Holland's treatment, nor did he know anything about it until it was too late.

That contradicts information given to The Tribune in August 2017, when questions from The Tribune about Holland's death were being referred to the County Counsel's Office. In a Aug. 4, 2017, email, County Counsel Rita Neal wrote that Parkinson "was aware that Mr. Holland was in the restraint chair but was unaware of the exact duration of time."

Neal has since clarified that Parkinson was "made aware" of Holland's death on Jan. 22.

The Tribune sought records of Parkinson's communications in an August 2017 public records request, which was partially denied due to the burdensome scope of the request and because some records contained security and other confidential information. Other communications provided in response to that request do not relate to Holland.

Tave Holland, Andrew Holland's cousin and a San Luis Obispo-based attorney, made a similar but more narrow request for Parkinson's communications in December on behalf of the family, to which the county turned over several emails, none of which had to do with Holland.

But in response to that request, the county said it identified two communications to or from Parkinson during that time period — one on Jan. 20 and another on Jan. 23 — which were exempt from disclosure because they fall within the "deliberative process privilege."

Even if a record of a communication contains private information and cannot be released, the county must acknowledge whether such a record exists. But the county has not acknowledged the existence of any communication to Parkinson on Jan. 22.

On Friday, in response to a second request from Tave Holland on April 5 for Parkinson's communications, the county handed over the previously unreleased Jan. 20, 2017, communication, an email from a former correctional captain to Parkinson and Undersheriff Tim Olivas regarding an update for an unrelated jail program, so as "to dispel this incorrect assertion and misguided suspicion that the sheriff did not accurately indicate when he learned of 'Andrew's ordeal.'"

"This communication, which you have called out as casting doubt on the sheriff's credibility regarding when he learned of Andrew's ordeal, does not relate to Andrew Holland and therefore has no relevance whatsoever to what the sheriff knew or when he knew it," the letter written by Deputy County Counsel Ann Duggan states to Tave Holland.

The County Counsel's Office did not respond to Tribune questions Friday and Monday on why there is no record of a communication to or from Parkinson on the day he claims he was alerted of Holland's death.

Holland's family remains unsatisfied with the explanations it has received.

"I'm frustrated at the lack of transparency and that the seeming coverup of what happened continues unabated," Andrew Holland's cousin, Tave Holland, said Monday.

"They're still saying by implication that there is no communication (on Jan. 22), and I see no plausible circumstances where the sheriff could not have received some sort of communication the day you have an inmate die at the jail," Tave Holland said. "It leaves the impression that there was a communication (on Jan. 22) and it's being suppressed because it's somehow incriminating."

What records provided by the county do show, however, is that on the morning of Jan. 23, 2017 — roughly 14 hours after Holland died — Parkinson requested that County Health staff provide him records for how long mentally ill or incompetent-to-stand-trial inmates waited for transfer to a state hospital or the county's psychiatric unit in the preceding year.

After The Tribune released jail surveillance video showing Andrew Holland's death, Parkinson released a statement placing much of the blame for Holland's death at County Behavioral Health, which Parkinson said "refused to accept" Holland at the county psychiatric health facility.

Matt Fountain 781-7909, @mattfountain1
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