Deputy sues sheriff’s department for retaliation

March 23, 2012

Sheriff Ian Parkinson

By KAREN VELIE

A former San Luis Obispo County Sheriff deputy says in a lawsuit that he was retaliated against and eventually terminated after he reported multiple abuses of policy by department heads.

Dale Strobridge filed the civil suit March 13 in San Luis Obispo County Superior Court. He includes the county and both former Sheriff Pat Hedges and current Sheriff Ian Parkinson as defendants in the suit.

The complaint states that in 2005, the former sergeant reported the illicit taping of Chief Deputy Gary Hoving to the county’s former human resources director, Deb Hossli. As a result, Hoving filed a lawsuit against the county and received a $660,000 settlement.

In addition, as president of the Deputy Sheriffs Association employee union, in Oct. 2009, Strobridge challenged changes to holiday time made by department heads.

During the 2010 election for sheriff, Strobridge endorsed Joe Cortez, the primary opponent of Ian Parkinson.

During this time, several deputies overheard former department spokesperson and Parkinson campaigner Rob Bryn loudly chastising Strobridge. Bryn accused Strobridge of leaking information to CalCoastNews about a lawsuit in which Parkinson testified as an expert witness in traffic accident reconstruction without informing the court that the plaintiff was his sister-in-law.

Department heads also accused Strobridge of telling CalCoastNews about an internal affairs investigation into sexual misconduct by a deputy stationed at the jail.

Strobridge did not provide CalCoastNews information on either issue.

In late 2009, Strobridge discovered confidential deputy information such as reprimands available for viewing by sworn deputies on the department’s systems z drive.

According to his lawsuit, Strobridge downloaded the files onto his thumb drive and reported the issue to Tami Douglas-Schatz, the county’s director of human resources.

On Feb. 25, 2011, shortly after Parkinson was sworn in, he fired Strobridge for downloading the information and ordered him to hand over his thumb drive, which also contained private union information, the lawsuit says.


33 Comments

  1. 805code4 says:

    Obviously There is much to say about this matter and we all can speculate until the cows come home, but lets keep it simple…. IF ALL of the facts provided are true and correct, Then this former S.O. Sergeant did the right thing by reporting such misconduct within the Dept. to the Proper Authorities. To debate the “Thumb-Drive” issue, and construe the matter as anything else but simply obtaining evidence to support these allegations, is to advocate Officers and Deputies that have one foot on both sides of the Law. There needs to be MORE accountability for the Government Officials that abuse their powers and the courts need to stop protecting them when they step out of line. I am also thoroughly disappointed with the media for the severe lacking in coverage pertaining to these issues as well. Suppressing the truth is dishonesty and it reflects piss poorly on a profession I’ve spent most of my life being a part of, and no longer want. Happy 4th of July Everyone! Celebrate your freedom and independence while you can, because soon, there will be nothing to celebrate (See SLO “Sheriffs violate 4th” on youtube)

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 1

  2. Gordo says:

    Whether Mr. Strobridge chose to represent himself because of his prowess in the courtroom or because his attorneys kept conflicting out doesn’t matter in this case.
    What does matter is why he downloaded confidential personnel files he had no legal right to access. And did he inform the employees files who were left unsecured. If not, then why. What did he use the downloaded information for?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 2

    • MaryMalone says:

      I wouldn’t know Strobridge if I backed over him with my jag, and it feels odd having to feel like I am defending him from some relentless attack… except that by defending a LEO from attacks,–when the LEO claims to have already suffered harassment and retaliation from brass–is defending all LEOs who get stuck with incompetent brass who can only “lead” by harassment, intimidation, and retaliation.

      The fact that all of those who accessed and downloaded the confidential files on the Z drive weren’t fired supports Strobridge’s claim that he was retaliated against. If the reason for his termination was downloading of the confidential files, then everyone who was unauthorized to down the files but did so should also have been fired.

      No one had a legal right to access those files. No one had the legal right to upload them to that computer drive, where others could access them. If the files had not been left on the Z-drive in the first place, NO ONE who didn’t have rights to access them would have had access to them.

      Strobdridge has allegedly been harrassed, intimidated, and suffered retaliation from the Sheriff and his minions. Clearly, once he saw the confidential files available to those who should not access them, he took the logical step of alerting those who could fix the problem. Perhaps he copied them to demonstrate and/or document the issue, and the date it occurred?

      However, Strobridge is not responsible for the files being accessible to those who should not have seen them. In addition, Strobridge is not the only one who saw the files.

      So why haven’t more deputies been fired? Did the sheriff have IT access the files to figure out who had accessed the files, and who uploaded them? What were the consequences for those people?

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 2

  3. HarryMalone says:

    How come everybody knows what a Z drive is but me and why is it such an awful thing that gets you fired?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 3

    • MaryMalone says:

      Harry, we can’t go on meeting like this.

      A “Z drive” is just another drive on a computer. Your main drive is your C drive, and the other drives (like the DVD, CD, flash-drive, are lettered sequentially.

      It appears Strobridge was wrongfully fired. It sounds like most sworn deputies had access to the Z drive. The problem was that someone had uploaded confidential employee files (such as employee reprimand documents) on the Z drive. Those documents are confidential. Their placement on the Z drive made them accessible to people who should not have been able to access them.

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 4

  4. Gordo says:

    One final note:

    Think about this.. Mr. Strobridge is representing himself. In Pro Per.

    If their was any money in this case attorneys would crawl over rattlesnakes to take the case. We get from 35% to 50% of any award, depending on the case and the individual attorney.

    Why doesn’t he have a first rate police union attorney like Michael Stone or Mike Rains? Answer: Because he committed a crime.
    There’s no money in representing criminals.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 13 Thumb down 18

    • Crusader says:

      Why would Strobridge forego 35% to 50% For your “expertise?”

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 19 Thumb down 3

      • Gordo says:

        Because a man who represents himself in court has a fool for a client. Even an attorney doesn’t represent himself in court because personal involvement can affect tactical decisions at trial. If he was really wronged he should have Mike Stone representing him.

        Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 9

        • MaryMalone says:

          Oh, come ON. Now you’re trying to shift the argument to Strobridge being guilty because he chose not to have an attorney? Are you kidding me?

          You’re starting to sound a little desperate to protect the inept Parkinson and Hedges, and that isn’t helping them one bit.

          Let us focus on the signs that Parkinson is guilty of retaliation.

          I’ll start with the fact that apparently no one who also accessed the confidential personnel files was fired. These files were left on the Z drive because of Hedges/Parkinson’s failure to lead and to provide a secure system for the archiving of confidential personnel documents.

          Strobridge was singled out for termination. It was clear that Hedges and Parkinson, long before Strobridge informed personnel that confidential personnel files were on a non-secure computer drive, wanted Strobridge, a union man–who would NOT back down to the intimidation of the Sheriffs and their sycophant toadies–GONE.

          Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 2

          • HarryMalone says:

            SYCOPHANT….

            apple-polishing
            ass kissing
            ass licking
            bootlicker
            brown nosing
            crawler
            fawning
            flunky
            grovelling
            hanger-on
            kowtowing
            lackey
            lickspittle
            sucking up
            toady
            yes man
            Kiss ass

            Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 0

  5. Gordo says:

    MaryMalone:

    First I don’t see the connection between something Parkinson may have done before he was sheriff and the lawsuit that Strobridge has filed against the county and TWO sheriffs.
    And you talk about keeping down the “union man”. Well, I presume the deputies whose confidential files he accessed were “union men” too. In fact they were probably members of the union Strobridge represented. Which makes me ask, “Did he tell them he had discovered their confidential personnel files were unsecured?” Apparently he did not, which makes me think he is a union official in the mold of Jimmy Hoffa, rather than John L. Lewis. The bottom line is the county will respond to this suit once they are served and I bet their version will answer the questions I have raised in this forum. One final note: Attorneys never ask questions we don’t know they answers to. My only regret is that I wouldn’t get to represent the county in this case; it would be the easiest $350.00 per hour that I could have ever earned.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 10 Thumb down 11

    • MaryMalone says:

      Just to make something clear: I am a big supporter of LEOs. My brother-in-law was a LACo deputy for decades, and served as a captain at the Southeast (Watts) station for years. I remain very close to my brother-in-law, even after he and my sister divorced.

      I think you are attempting to shift blame for the breach of workplace confidentiality by county personnel onto Strobridge by trying to shift focus onto what Strobridge did after he discovered the confidential files on the Z drive. If the county–and the buck stops with the sheriff in this case–screwed up. THEY breached the employment records confidentiality rights of the deputies whose confidential info ended up on the Z drive. Not Strobridge.

      I don’t know what Strobridge did. It does appear that he had been under an extended period of harassment and intimidation, and that can result in changes the way one responds to situations.

      I don’t know what I would do in the same position. What do you think would be best? Telling the deputies first which might widen the scandal, and may end up with more harassment and intimidation by an embarrassed personnel manager and sheriff? Or going to personnel first to get them working on it immediately, giving them and the sheriff a chance to right a situation where other deputies workplace rights had been–purposely or not-on-purposely–not upheld?

      If Strobridge had immediately gone to the deputies (before personnel and/or the sheriff), don’t you think the sheriff and his toadies would have immediately been on him like a duck on a junebug? It seems that both Hedges and Parkinson were singling him out for criticism, and giving other deputies a free pass.

      I can see reasons for both approaches to handling finding out about the breach in confidentiality..

      However, Strobridge isn’t the one who put those confidential employee records on the Z drive. It was the county personnel who did that.

      In addition, you can bet other deputies saw the same files, but DIDN’T tell anyone who could fix the situation. Don’t you think those deputies failed to respond appropriately to the breach of workplace confidentiality of their fellow deputies’ records?

      It sounds to me like both sheriffs lead by the same method Lisa Solomon, ex-chief of Paso, lead: by turning officer against officer (divide and conquer), and by using intimidation, harassment and retaliation.

      I do feel sorry for the deputies having to work for such poor leaders. Those deputies deserve better. They put their lives on the line, and this is the kind of inept leadership the city/county governments provide?

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 8

  6. choprzrul says:

    The problem is that law enforcement officials are insulated financially from any effect of their actions. The government pays for their legal defense and then the government pays any settlements.

    Guess where the government gets the money to pay all of those legal fees & settlements? Right out of my pocket.

    Congratulations SLO sheeple. Look at who you voted into office.

    What a public disgrace.

    .

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 10 Thumb down 14

    • Crusader says:

      Pardon me? The system you described would be the exact same one if Cotez has been elected sheriff. Before people start flocking to Strobridge’s side I suggest they first learn a little about the man.

      “Sheeple?” Hardly.

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 15 Thumb down 7

      • MaryMalone says:

        Yeah, but Parkinson is the sheriff who is now accused of harrassment, intimidation and retaliation of one of his deputies. There would be no court costs associated with Parkinson defending himself if Parkinson was a better leader and didn’t have to stoop to harassment and intimidation to “lead” his deputies.

        Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 10

        • Crusader says:

          Just one moment. While I am no supporter of Parkinson I realize there is a very real possibility that Strobridge’s accusations are crap. If they are it wouldn’t matter who was in office because the problem would be with Strobridge and not the Sheriff.

          Like or Dislike: Thumb up 10 Thumb down 5

          • MaryMalone says:

            Of course, I agree.

            However, we know that Ian Parkinson is a liar and is unethical.

            He is also woefully negligent of paying his taxes, resulting in tax liens being placed on his property. The sheriff oversees a $57million budget (as of 2010). Do we really want someone in charge of a $57million budget who can’t even pay his own property taxes until after tax liens are placed on his property?

            Quoting CCN’s article, “UPDATE: PARKINSON UNAWARE OF TAX LIENS?” of 5/14/2010…

            —————–
            In response to allegations that San Luis Obispo County Sheriff candidate Ian Parkinson was untruthful when he said that he has never had any tax liens, attorney John Ronca said his candidate had paid off three liens and asserts Parkinson did not remember them because the amounts were so small.
            “After reviewing the printout and checking the county records, Ian does not deny that liens were filed, he simply did not recall them on the show, nor does he recall them now,” Ronca said in an e-mail to Dave Congalton at KVEC radio. “The bottom line is that Ian was completely honest on your show when he said he always paid his taxes and that he was unaware of any tax liens.”
            Ronca said he reviewed county records and found that all of the liens were more than five years old and the amounts were under $240.
            He, however, failed to mention a 2006 lien on a property Parkinson owned in Monterey County that was also listed in the e-mail.
            In 2006, after Parkinson failed to pay a property tax bill of $1,546 for a home he owned at 44250 Via Canada in King City, the Monterey County Tax Collector placed a lien on the property. More than a year later, on Aug. 31, 2007, Parkinson paid the bill, according to the Monterey County Tax Collector’s office.

            In San Luis Obispo County, if a recreational vehicle owner fails to pay their boat taxes on time, the county sends out a notice of intent to place a lien on the property. If the property owner does not respond to the notice, a lien is place on the boat, said Art Bacon, San Luis Obispo County principal financial analyst….
            In the 2007/2008 tax year, the tax collector sent Parkinson a notice of intent to file a lien if he did not catch up on his delinquent taxes. He paid the bill prior to a lien being recorded, Bacon said.
            In the 2005/2006 tax year, Parkinson failed to respond to the notice and a lien of $164 was placed on his boat. Shortly afterwards Parkinson paid the tax and the late payment fines.
            In the 2002/2003 tax year, Parkinson again failed to respond to the notice and a temporary lien of $201was placed on his boat.
            In the 2001/2002 tax year, Parkinson owned two boats. The tax collector sent him notices of intent to file liens on both vehicles. When he did not respond to the notices, the county tax collector’s office filed liens of $237 and $222 on the boats. Parkinson paid both liens off within a few months of the recording.
            In the 1999/2000 tax year, the tax collector sent Parkinson a notice of intent to file a lien if he did not catch up on his delinquent taxes. He paid the bill prior to a lien being recorded.
            The sheriff oversees a staff of 375 and a $57 million budget. The department patrols all unincorporated areas in the county and several cities including Nipomo, Shandon and Avila Beach.

            ———————

            Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 3

          • MaryMalone says:

            Crusader, I usually agree with most of your opinions. Even if I don’t agree with your opinions, I always respect the ethical way in which you appear to reach them.

            The deal is, in this case, we know that Parkinson is a corrupt LEO. I don’t know that about Strobridge.

            Parkinson committed a severe breach of ethics (which may have resulted in an unjust award of over $1million to Parkinson’s sister, a plaintiff in the trial), when testifying as an expert witness in court, purposely did not inform the court that one of the plaintiffs was his sister-in-law. In fact, he went so far as to imply that he, himself, was “impartial”:

            “Obviously, at some stage, somebody needs to determine fault in the collision,” Parkinson testified in the 2000 civil trial, according to the transcripts. “Many times, both parties don’t know who is at fault and they need somebody, an impartial person on the outside, to look at the issues to determine fault.”

            Parkinson indicates he’s testified as an “expert witness” in over 200 cases. How many of those cases were for his relatives, friends, or others where there was a clear conflict of interest, which Parkinson did not reveal to the court?

            Also, during those 200 cases, were they all–as was the case with his sister-in-law done when Parkinson was not licensed as a private investigator, something that is required in the State of California?

            Have the courts contacted all of the people involved in trials where Parkinson was an “expert witness” and informed them that Parkinson was unqualified to be an expert witness, and that there may have been conflicts of interest not revealed by Parkinson which would make his testimony not credible as being “impartial”?

            Finally, does Parkinson’s lack of regard for laws, regulations and requirements for being an expert witness, and for his responsibility for paying his property taxes, apply to other areas of life, such as his position as sheriff of SLOCo?

            —————–

            IAN PARKINSON: WITNESS FOR HIRE (October 5, 2010)
            By KAREN VELIE UPDATED
            San Luis Obispo County Sheriff candidate Ian Parkinson’s testimony as an expert witness in a 2000 civil case helped his sister-in-law Rita Tavernetti collect a $1.4 million dollar settlement, causing some to question Parkinson’s ethics.
            By his own account, Parkinson, currently a captain with the San Luis Obispo Police Department, has testified as an expert accident reconstructionist in more than 200 cases over the past 18 years.
            In the Tavernetti case, Parkinson was paid $150 per hour for a total of about $6,000 to investigate the accident and testify in support of his sister-in-law’s quest for damages.
            A review of the court transcripts by CalCoastNews shows that Parkinson failed to publicly reveal his relationship to Tavernetti during 108 pages of testimony. In addition, even though Parkinson has testified that he has owned and run an accident reconstruction business for 18 years, he does not appear to have a San Luis Obispo city business license as required by the city’s municipal code.
            Also, in order to conduct investigations for trials not associated with his job as a peace officer, Parkinson is required by law to be a licensed private investigator, according to the California Bureau of Security and Investigative Services. Failure to acquire a valid private investigator license is a violation of the California Business and Professions Code. Parkinson does not have a private investigator’s license, according to state regulators.
            In 2000, Parkinson testified in a jury trial in which his sister-in-law was seeking monetary damages after her father died in a freak accident. Parkinson testified that both an eyewitness and a California Highway Patrol officer’s accounts of the crash were flawed, leading the way for his sister-in-law to collect a large award.
            Nevertheless, Parkinson failed to mention to the jury or the judge that one of the plaintiffs, Tavernetti, was his sister-in-law.
            “Obviously, at some stage, somebody needs to determine fault in the collision,” Parkinson testified in the 2000 civil trial, according to the transcripts. “Many times, both parties don’t know who is at fault and they need somebody, an impartial person on the outside, to look at the issues to determine fault.”
            …A leading group in determining standards for law enforcement ethics – the Los Angeles-based Josephson Institute on Ethics – contends it is not ethical for Parkinson to conduct an investigation and testify as an expert witness for a family member while serving as a police officer.
            “Using his name, title, and credibility to garner a huge payout for his sister-in-law is a clear violation of avoiding the appearance of a conflict of interest,” said Mike Carpenter, the Josephson Institute on Ethics director of risk management services. “It takes a lot of brass to say there is nothing wrong with giving testimony when his sister-in-law is a litigant.”
            …CalCoastNews also spoke with a half dozen collision experts who all said they would not testify for a friend or a relative because of the potential conflict of interest and appearance of impropriety.
            “I wouldn’t be involved in a case with someone that was even an acquaintance,” said Bard Johnson, an expert collision witness. “I have had to recuse myself twice. One was a neighbor of mine and the other was related to someone I know.”…
            Parkinson has used his official position to testify in hundreds of cases for financial gain, according to Parkinson’s testimony. “I have actually two occupations,” Parkinson said. “I’m a police officer, been a police officer for about 17 years; and I’m also an accident reconstructionist.
            “Sometimes it’s full time,” Parkinson said when questioned about the amount of time he works as an expert witness for hire.

            ——————————-

            Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 2

  7. Gordo says:

    I will ask the question again, ” Did Mr. Strobridge alert the deputies that he discovered their confidential personnel information was unsecured on a county server?” If the answer is “no” then I submit his downloading the confidential peace officer personnel records was anything but altruistic. And I would ask again “exactly how did Mr. Strobridge bring this to the attention of the personnel director?” What method of communication did he use? His lawsuit claims he was forced to turn his thumbdrive over to the sheriff’s department. How could that be, if he gave the thumbdrive and the confidential files it contained to the personnel director? Did he retain copies on a second thumb drive? If so why? And by what legal authority. It seems if someone’s rights were violated it sounds like it was the deputies whose confidential information he acessed and downloaded without permission. It sounds like the sheriffs decision to fire Mr. Strobridge was done to protect the deputys from him. Lets see where the facts take us when this goes to court.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 10 Thumb down 2

    • Cindy says:

      I have to agree that these details are highly relevant. I would suppose that the entire case can fall apart if he in fact misused this data in any self serving or inappropriate action. It all comes down to his intent ans actions that followed in my opinion. I do find it more than plausible that his only intent in downloading the data to validate the complaint he lodged with the county HR Director but you do raise some additional questions that require further consideration before anyone can determine/judge if the termination of his employment was justified and reasonable rather than an excuse for ………………………………

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 2

    • MaryMalone says:

      Gordo, gotta admire you for trying to work this so that a retaliation against a union man is actually the union man’s fault.

      There’s no big conspiracy here, it would appear. Is there a personnel rep in the Sheriffs Dept?

      It sounds to me like Strobridge downloaded EVIDENCE that happened to be confidential files. I am sure Strobridge had got the drift that he was being targeted by Parkinson and his goons who were kind enough to sport around during election season, loudly criticizing Strobridge.

      I think Parkinson has some questions to answer…such as why did he attempt to illegally conceal the conflict of interest (the identity of the plaintiff in the case) that existed when he testified as an expert witness for a plaintiff WHO JUST HAPPENED TO BE HIS SISTER-IN-LAW.

      Let me know when Parkinson has riddled us that one.

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 6

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