Large campaign donations to SLO County sheriff quadruple after jail death video

Sheriff Ian Parkinson, speaking here at a press conference on April 13, 2017, about inmate deaths at the County Jail, is running for his third term.
Sheriff Ian Parkinson, speaking here at a press conference on April 13, 2017, about inmate deaths at the County Jail, is running for his third term. jjohnston@thetribunenews.com

Large donations to the campaign to re-elect Sheriff Ian Parkinson quadrupled following the release of video showing the restraint and death of inmate Andrew Holland at the County Jail, public records show.

Parkinson is seeking a third term as sheriff and is being challenged by Greg Clayton, a former San Luis Obispo officer, in the June election.

The video, published by The Tribune on March 16, shows deputies watching Andrew Holland die after he was strapped to a restraint chair for 46 hours.

A story about the video described the ways that the footage contradicts county officials' version of the events. The video and story prompted international headlines, local protests and calls for Parkinson to resign or step out of the race, which he has said he will not do.

Andrew Holland died while in custody at San Luis Obispo County Jail in 2017, after being restrained for 46 hours. This is a look at the events that led to his death, the county's response and the inmates who have died in custody since Holland.

Public records show his campaign received $26,176.48 in large contributions of $1,000 or more from 19 donors from March 17-29, after the video was posted online. In the first half of the month before the video's release, his campaign received $5,800 in large contributions from five donors.

Some donations were likely prompted by a campaign event Parkinson held March 21 at Greengate Ranch & Vineyard.

One of the recent donations is from Borjon Auto Center in Paso Robles, which contributed $1,982.48 to Parkinson's campaign on March 29.

"I think there's some other departments that need to step up and take the heat," Borjon Auto Center owner Mark Borjon said about Holland's death. "It's unfortunate. I grieve for the family, but I don't know having a new sheriff is the right call."

"We've just never stepped up as a community or country to take care of what we should have with mental health," Borjon said.

On March 17, the day after the video was released, Parkinson issued a statement saying the mental health system failed Holland. He said the Sheriff's Office contacted county Mental Health multiple times to request that Holland be transferred to the mental facility for treatment, but the department refused to accept him and claimed they were at capacity, which was later determined to be untrue.

After facing criticism that he deflected blame, Parkinson said his efforts have not been perceived as he intended, as transparent and accountable, and that he accepted responsibility for his department.

"Ian is stepping up," Borjon said, while "Mental Health has a lot of the blame."

“We absolutely have some responsibility in the loss of Andrew Holland. Never question that we have responsibility,” Sheriff Ian Parkinson told SLO County supervisors on Aug. 22, 2017. Here's a portion of his remarks to supervisors.

As critics of Parkinson called for new leadership, his challenger, Clayton — who is campaigning as "an agent of change in the jail," received $1,000 from a single donor after the video was released.

Earlier this year, Holland's family promised to contribute $25,000 to Clayton's campaign.

Which candidate has received the most donations under $1,000 this month hasn't been determined as the data is not yet available.

Only donations more than $1,000 are legally required to be reported within 24 hours in the 90-day period before an election.

This story has been updated to include a campaign event held for Parkinson in March.

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