SLO County denies allegations in retaliation lawsuit

April 17, 2012

Sheriff Ian Parkinson

San Luis Obispo County officials said they are not liable for civil damages sought by a former sheriff deputy who contends he was retaliated against and eventually terminated after he reported multiple abuses of policy by department heads.

In a response filed Monday, county officials argue that the sheriff’s department terminated former deputy Dale Strobridge because he illegally accessed confidential employee information for his own personal gain and that Strobridge’s claims of retaliation are untrue.

Specifically, county officials said Strobridge used personal information about another deputy to prove, as part of a grievance, that he was not evaluated under the same criteria as the other deputy.

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

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

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.

However, the county contends that Strobridge admitted in interviews that he never told Douglas-Schatz about discovering the confidential information.

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, the lawsuit says.


12 Comments

  1. diamond says:

    I think it’s disturbing that Sheriff Ian Parkinson testified as a an “expert witness” in a trial involving a relative who was awarded money. I’m surprised more has not come of this as he obviously had a huge conflict of interest and should have never been allowed to testify. I believe this speaks volumes about his honesty and character. As far as the sheriff’s department goes, there has been snooping going on for years. I know of an accountant for the department who snoops into cases on a regular basis then relays her gossip to friends. I knew inside info about Pat Hedges before it hit the stands thanks to this nosey employee. If she can access info in the department then the department needs to blame themselves for their lack of checks and balances. Where the info came from does not change the facts.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 10 Thumb down 1

  2. Gordo says:

    Wheb Strobridge found confidential personnel files left unsecured he should have told somebody. He did not. He downloaded personal information that belonged to other people and used for his own personal gain, appealing his own confidential personnel matter to the human resources agency. That is a theft under California law. Other people may have accessed and read things they had no right to, but only one guy downloaded the confidential files on a thumbdrive and used them for his own agenda. I would bet that is why HE was fired and other people were not. Of course others may have been disciplined and they took their punishment and moved on.
    I wonder if the employees whose files Strobridge stole are considering legal action against him now that we have heard from both sides.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 17 Thumb down 7

    • MaryMalone says:

      Has the County investigated how many other deputies and staff accessed those files “accidentally” placed on the unsecure Z drive? Out of those who access the files, how many told personnel and the Sheriff? Did the Sheriff then fire them all?

      If not, then Strobridge is correct about Parkinson retaliating against him for his (union) whistle-blowing activities.

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 11 Thumb down 8

  3. Cindy says:

    A) “county officials argue that the sheriff’s department terminated former deputy Dale Strobridge because he illegally accessed confidential employee information for his own personal gain”

    B) “Strobridge used personal information about another deputy to prove, as part of a grievance, that he was not evaluated under the same criteria as the other deputy.”

    A+B=C

    C) You have the proof and you can’t use it because you aren’t supposed to have the proof.

    Don’t yah just love it ? Leave it to LEO and gubmint to apply illegal search and seizure to get “themselves” out of a bust on “themselves”! As to Dale saying he took the info to report it to HR and then the county saying he admitted that he didn’t report it to HR, hummm? If I didn’t know how highly regarded Dale is in some certain respected circles, I would think he was looking for an excuse to grab some free taxpayer money. But I think Dale is on the up and up except he really should have turned his thumb drive over to HR and not retained the data himself. If he didn’t trust HR, then he could have gave the thumb drive to his attorney and had the attorney contact HR.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 11 Thumb down 10

    • MaryMalone says:

      But they didn’t apply it to “themselves.” They applied it to Strobridge. Have you heard of any other deputies or others who accessed those files being fired?

      Parkinson’s singling out Strobridge proves Strobridge’s accusations of retaliation.

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 9

  4. catdude says:

    Anyone who rode a motorcycle in this town in the 1990’s knows who Strobridge is; he was the little cop with the big attitude. He hates motorcyclists and would hassle one at every chance. In over forty years of motorcycle riding I have never met a more rude. hostile, and less professional cop. I was pulled over twice by him, eight or ten years apart, and both times he was incredibly nasty. (BTW: I am always polite and non-agressive when dealing with a cop). The second time, the event causing me to make a rapid lane change was not visible to him, so he cited me for an unsafe lane change; during the stop he yelled at me for my helmet, insisted my pipes were not baffled until I finally told him to poke his stick up the pipe. whereupon he instantly shut up about the pipes and then put words in my mouth (“wanted to teach him a lesson, huh?), then when I took his sorry butt to court he flat out LIED in court, stating I had said what HE said! The classic short-guy bully with a badge. He should NEVER have been given that badge & gun! He has demonstrated to me he is a liar and a cheat and I hope he loses his butt on this one.

    Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 38 Thumb down 9

    • MaryMalone says:

      Strobridge wasn’t terminated for having a “classic short-guy bully with a badge.”

      He was terminated, selectively, for doing what other deputies had done: accessed the documents on the Z drive. He then used some of the information to prove he was being singled out. However, because Strobridge was the only deputy fired for accessing the Z drive, it is clearly a case of retaliation.

      There was at least one other person who accessed those confidential records: the person who told Strobridge about them. However, no one else has been terminated for accessing the Z drive.

      Has the sheriff conducted a study to see how many people accessed those confidential records on the Z drive? Each of those people need to be investigated because, at this point, there is no telling how many have already used that confidential information for their own causes, or will use the information in the future.

      And what about the brain trust who uploaded the confidential information to the Z drive in the first place? Have they been fired?

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 1

      • catdude says:

        Mary,
        Please re-read my post; you will note that nowhere do I mention the reason for Strobridge’s termination or the merits of his lawsuit. I was commenting on his lack of character and professionalism. Having a clean driving record, I could easily have copped traffic school for that second citation, but I was so offended by his behavior that I wanted to demonstrate his lack of professionalism in the court. The judge, however, at my use of the word “demeanor” in reference to the cop, stopped me instantly and would not allow any discussion of the cop’s attitude or behavior, so I was denied even that small satisfaction. Strobridge used his position of authority and trust to abuse me on two occasions, and lied in court to my certain knowledge; he deserves no consideration. He should have been fired long ago.

        Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 1

  5. bobfromsanluis says:

    I have been kind of “holding my breath” as to how Sheriff Parkinson is going to work out as our new Sheriff, especially after the debacle that was the legacy of Sheriff Hedges; the last sentence of this article seems to be pointing Sheriff Parkinson down the bad road that Hedges had the department going down: “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, the lawsuit says.” I do not know anyone working at the Sheriff’s Department, past or present, all of what I have been able to glean about the performance of Sheriff Parkinson has seemed to be encouraging that he was going to operate a much better department than his predecessor, but this particular incident does not seem to be “above board” nor does the termination of Deputy Strobridge seem “just”. Was the firing by Parkinson a sort of “payback” to Hedges against Strobridge? As more facts about this case comes to light, it will be interesting to see who was operating with a motive of “justice”.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 12 Thumb down 19

  6. MaryMalone says:

    Unless the County investigated to find out who accessed the confidential information “mistakenly” uploaded to the non-confidential “Z drive,” and terminated them all, then the County simply used Strobridge’s accessing the Z drive–to which he had rights to access at that time–as an excuse for retaliation.

    The County Sheriff needs to man-up and either terminate ALL of those who accessed the confidential records “mistakenly” left on the Z drive, or admit they retaliated against Strobridge for his challenges to teh wrong-doings by the Sheriff Department’s brass and pay the demands of Strobridge’s lawsuit.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 16 Thumb down 13

  7. slowtime says:

    Strobridge has always butted heads with the administration, and he was always right and they didnt like it. Guys like Strobridge push the envelope and keep Departments in line. We need more like him. They were always waiting for him to step on his dick so they could take action and get rid of him.Sounds like this was the time.

    Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 17 Thumb down 29

    • Cindy says:

      No surprise that he was bounced when Parkinson took over the helm, Dale openly supported Cortez for county Sheriff. I suspect that Dales current life would have been very different today if Cortez had won. So far Parkinson seems to be doing a good job and I can’t complain but I seriously doubt that Parkinson would have terminated Dale if he liked him. This termination over records being accessed on an unsecured drive seems to be “a much a do about nothin”, as in nothing more than an excuse to get rid of someone that doesn’t kowtow to the GOB’s and we all know that Ian has a pulled a few “fast ones” in the past.

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 16 Thumb down 9

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