Ian Parkinson: Witness for hire

October 5, 2010


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.”

Parkinson did not return requests for comment.

While testifying, Parkinson noted that he was a San Luis Obispo Police Officer who had spent a significant amount of his time responding to traffic accidents.

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.”

More than 10 years ago, Tavernetti’s father, Ted McCormack, was driving southbound on a road that ran parallel to Highway 101 in King City, according to court records, with a blood alcohol level of 0.23 percent.

A truck pulling a trailer loaded with irrigation pipes was headed northbound when the trailer disconnected and angled into McCormack’s lane. He swerved to the right onto the dirt shoulder and clipped the trailer. The impact dislodged a pipe which broke through McCormack’s front window and pierced his head, killing him, according to the CHP traffic report.

When officers arrived, they found the trailer and the roadway littered with pipe. But neither of the two trucks described by an eyewitness were present. One of the officers was leaving the scene, going south on Central Avenue, when he noticed a set of headlights streaming in the night sky from an irrigation pond about 1,300 feet from the accident site. The officer discovered McCormack and his truck at the bottom of the pond.

The only witness to the accident, Cheryl Coppos, told police that McCormack was driving about 35 miles per hour, swerved to the right onto the dirt shoulder, hit the trailer and continued on, according to the California Highway Patrol incident report.

The CHP officer at the scene determined gouge marks in the dirt and skid marks found on the road showed that the accident occurred on the shoulder of the roadway which also backed up the eyewitness’ statement. Both the CHP officer and the eyewitness’ statements supported the argument that if McCormack had not been so intoxicated the accident could have been avoided.

Nevertheless, Parkinson testified that the skid marks were likely made at another time, that the point of impact the CHP documented was wrong, and that the witness’ account of the accident was incorrect.

San Luis Obispo-based attorney and friend of Parkinson, James Murphy, was hired by Parkinson’s sister-in-law to file the lawsuit. Both Parkinson and Murphy began conducting their own investigation at the scene within 10 days of the accident.

Tavernetti put up fliers asking for witnesses to contact Murphy if they had information on the accident and offered a $5,000 reward. For more than a year no one came forward.

Shortly before a scheduled hearing, Murphy agreed to a $5,000 nuisance settlement to be paid by G&H Farms, the owners of the trailer. However, before the settlement was paid and more than a year after the accident, Matthew Hayes, an ex-boyfriend of Tavernetti, came forward with claims that he had passed McCormack shortly before the accident and noticed a white Ford truck towing a trailer loaded with pipes belonging to G&H Farms going the other way.

Hayes claimed that McCormack was driving faster than the eyewitness had reported, which concurred with Parkinson’s assertions that McCormack had no time to brake or veer and possibly avoid hitting the trailer. According to court records, the reward for information had been raised to $100,000 at the time Hayes came forward.

Frank Cunningham, the attorney who defended G&H Farms, passed away a few years ago. His former partner, Bill Gavin, said Cunningham believed his clients were not responsible for the accident and was very unhappy with the outcome of the trial. Murphy claims he disclosed the fact that Parkinson was Tavernetti’s brother-in-law to Cunningham, who he said felt it was not an issue.

However, the attorney who sat second chair, Jennifer Moon, and the private investigator who worked for Cunningham both said they thought Cunningham would have mentioned the relationship in cross-examination.

“It was a horrible case,” said Greg Deitz, a private investigator who often worked for Cunningham. “Frank would have gone ballistic if he knew about Parkinson.” Murphy also said expert witnesses often testify for friends or family.

Murphy used at least one other expert witness in the case. Steve Blewett, a mechanical engineering expert from San Jose, who is also an auto reconstructionist, testified before the jury about how the trailer disconnected from the truck.

When contacted by CalCoastNews, Blewett said he would not testify for a family member or friend because of the appearance of impropriety and laughed when he learned Parkinson was related to the plaintiff.

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.”

In addition, Murphy claimed Parkinson’s testimony was very limited. However, a copy of Parkinson’s testimony provided by the court recorder is 108 pages long.

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.

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No wonder Parkinson doesn’t have a degree. Rather than spending time in a classroom, he’s spent all his spare time running a side (unlicensed) business, earning his chain-belt in Kung Fu and hanging out at the county fair.

I don’t want this sort of guy as my sheriff.

I can’t for the life of me figure out how a man that was driving with a .23 blood alcohol which is 3 times the legal limit could not have been reasonably responsible for an accident especially when a CHP officer said there had been plenty of room on the road for him to negotiate a slight correction if he had not be so intoxicated? Leave it to Ian Parkinson to get his sister in law a 1.4 million dollar settlement by pretending to be “impartial and an expert outsider” rather than divulge that he was a relative and then manage to screw a business mans insurance company, the farmer and the rest of society with larger insurance premiums. Hope they all had fun. That family is a menace, they got Ian (a brother in law) and an ex boyfriend who remembers a year later that he saw something for a $100,000 reward! All of them are trash and lets not forget Erik Parkinson with his big fund raisers for a charity orphanage by the sea in India which is a resort that he visits regularly.

This is hysterical…read the facts not Karen’s story (she is incapable of objective journalism). The attorney disclosed the relationship with the court twice and the opposing attorney had no issue.

More importantly, why didn’t Karen the investigative reporter look into Joe Cortez’s “City of Bell-like” attempt to take a medical retirement with virtually no tax impact to him, but lots to the the rest of us? If he was “stressed” in California Casual Pismo Beach, just how in the world can he handle being the leader of the largest law enforcement agency in the county?

It is unfortunate that people won’t take the time to meet the candidates personally to make an informated decision….

You have to love democracy, but you have to hate irresponsible journalism.

Are you saying you still support Parkinson? You LE are sure loyal to each other, I’ll give you that. Great union and good ole boy (girl) network. Enjoy it for the next couple of weeks…

Sorry SLOBIRD, I accidentally gave you a red. I can’t believe surfdawg would believe that an attorney for the defense would ever allow a relative to testify in the fashion Ian did and as an expert and never inform the jury that Ian was a relative of the plaintiff. If the jury had known that, I have no doubt they would have discounted everything he said and believed the CHP officer and the eye witness. The fact is that only the Parkinson camp knew who Ian really was.

surfdawg, You’re so full of it, it was never disclosed in court, not once. Karen has the entire transcript. Nice try.

This story discloses the FACTS, try reading.

Hey Surfdog which deputy sheriff are you? John Franklin?

I’m not a cop, just an ordinary guy who loves living in a small town where we can actually determine the truth if we are so inclined…If I was a cop, I would cite several of you for basing your decisions on this garbage…

surfdawg: You’re hardly just an ordinary guy. Actually you’re a well-known public figure who endorsed Captain Parkinson long ago and you’re doing your best to defend him by smearing Karen.

So, here’s my question: What about the article is factually incorrect? What facts does Karen have wrong? Make the list and post it here and give Karen a chance to respond. She drove to Monterey. She read over the transcript. Her reporting is based on the transcript.

One last question: Are you willing to hold Captain Parkinson to the exact same high standards you’re demanding of Karen Velie?

surfdawg – If you are a well known public figure than I think you need to tell us who you are and what your motives are, or is anonymous lying okay as long as you don’t get caught?

Hmmm James R. Murphy? Where do I remember that name from?

Oh yea …. he was the one trying to shake down the Catholic Church along with his client, Deputy Sheriff John Franklin who claimed to have been traumatized while working an undercover sting. Franklin on a undercover assignment, gets groped while working near the nude beach. He busts the guy who turns out to be a priest and then CHAAAACHING! … a law suit enfolds … I guess its about deep pockets …………. What a bunch of BS!!!!

At least he didn’t file for work comp …yet ?


Say Ian, since Deputy Franklin has endorsed you, why didn’t you offer expert testimony on this case too?

I swear I don’t know who is worse …. the Attorney James R. Murphy or his top notch investigator, Ian Parkinson.

Hahahha is Ian an expert on groping too? If there was a way I’m sure Murphy would have hired him to testify. However on a more serious note, I wonder how many cases Ian has testified in for Murphy? It might be worth looking into. Those two obviously have a good thing going together and I doubt that once was enough. Maybe Karen can investigate that.

Good job Murphy you won that case. chaching is just the iceing on the cake…

Why would anyone vote for Parkinson to be Sheriff when he claims he already has another full time job. We need someone to straighten things out with county law enforcement, not another absentee boss like Hedges…

Too bad that Weinzenburg girl that hit and killed the CHP officer in Paso Robles isn’t wealthy. She could hire Ian Parkinson to testify that the CHP officers measured the wrong skid marks and he could explain that she could not have avoided CHP officer Bret despite the fact that she was high on meth. As for the speeding, those are someone else’s skid marks, remember? Ian is an expert and he knows those things.

I hope Karen sends copies of her court transcripts to the TT and KSBY, KCOY or gives them the name of the court reporter so that they won’t have an excuse not to print this. The TT should retract their endorsement. I can’t imagine that they would continue to endorse him now.

By the way, I noticed several land transactions between a Kay and Paul Tavernetti to an Amy Marie Parkinson, all up in King City several years back. Wonder why?

Very interesting. Kickbacks for the $1.4 million windfall?

I too was wondering how big his kick back was. I am not a lawyer and I was wondering if his expert testimony might qualify for a conspiracy to commit fraud case?

Unfortunately the insurance carrier who paid this out probably will not seek retrial or restitution because it would cost more money to pursue it and their loss has already been written off.

I wonder what the criteria would be to get the attorney general to investigate a 10 year old closed court case, and if this case would qualify?

Talk about a travesty of justice. It’s hard to believe a SLO police captain can be so unethical!

I don’t know what the statue of limitations would be but the biggest problem is that the attorney Frank Cunningham for G&H Farms has since passed away. Murphy claims that he told Cunningham and while it was never mentioned to the jury, the judge or to Cunninghams partner or associates it still becomes Murphy’s word without the deceased Cunninham to dispute it. It’s clear that Parkinson attempted to mislead the judge and jury when he said,

“Obviously, at some stage, somebody needs to determine fault in the collision,” “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.”

It isn’t even plausible that Cunningham would not have challenged that statement unless he didn’t know. Either that or he was in on the conspiracy to defraud an insurance company of 1.4 million.

This guy is clearly a scumbag and part of the good-old-boy network, what a loser, would be a huge mistake if this “i go along to get along” sleaze-bag is elected….this is huge, where is the telegram tribune?

Could have been Lenthall; les not forget that… wow. The Sheriff”s Office is full good ole boys. Watch how many retire or are dismissed if Parkinson gets it.

slowtime: Somehow, your moniker here seems very appropriate, because you just don’t seem to get it; Ian Parkinson IS part of the G.O.B. network and most of the good ‘ole boys in the Sheriff’s department WILL NOT be retiring if Ian is somehow elected. I predict that most of the good ‘ole boys in the Sheriff’s department will retire if Joe Cortez is elected, not Ian Parkinson. Your earlier assertion that this article is somehow a “smear” campaign really shows how desperate Parkinson supporters are getting. This article is a reporting of FACTS, not supposition, not speculation, but supported with evidence and testimony by involved parties. As far as the Parkinson campaign is concerned, stick a fork in it, it’s done.

Ian Parkinson, apparent Tax Cheater, Applicant Cheater, Debate Skipper, State License Cheater, Ethics Cheater, and Cheater of the public trust while under oath of the court.

All of the above as accumulated in numerous local news reports.

Ian Parkinson, you obviously are untrustworthy and unethical to be Sheriff, not to mention a police captain or any other officer of law.

As a honest law abiding citizen, who’s never been arrested or been the focus of law enforcement. How do you expect myself and others to have any respect for law enforcement officers such as yourself? You obviously are part of the problem why some law enforcement agencies and officers have lost the public trust. You are far from the solution and shall never have my vote!

Vote for integrity, Vote for ethics, Vote for change. Vote Joe Cortez !

Parkinson, if he has an ounce of character left, needs to withdraw from this campaign and then promptly resign from his SLOPD position. Ian Parkinson has no place in the law enforcement community.

Can charges be brought against him?

If charges were legit or real and not part of Karen’s smear campain, he would be charged already.

“…smear campain…”???

So, you are saying that the above article is not factual? For reference, from Merriam-Webster online:


3 : a usually unsubstantiated charge or accusation against a person or organization —often used attributively

Note: to be considered a ‘smear’, it must be ‘…unsubstantiated…’.

Now that we have that out of the way, please reference the ‘unsubstantiated’ part of the above article.

…we’re waiting…

its right there on top. KAREN “VELIE”. I wonder how long Dale will stay if Parkinson is elected; speaking of good ole boys…

35mph, pipe though head=dead, drive 1300 more feet into a pond? Doesnt make much sense to me. 1300 feet is a long way at 35mph. BTW, most King City chp have less than 2 years experience. What is fishy is the ex-boyfriend coming forward, now that smells.

I doubt he was driving at 35mph once he got hit in the head. It was more like he became dead weight and it was pedal to the metal.

“1300 feet is a long way at 35 mph” Two words: Cruise Control.

As he was nearly 3 times over the legal limit for DUI, I wouldn’t be surprised if he used the common drunk tactic of engaging the cruise control to keep his speed in check.

slowtime: The CHP Officer who investigated this collision retired a few years after following a 30 year career. You are entertaining though, even if you believe every rumor you hear and then write it down as if you were there.

Oh it’s definitely been substantiated. Did you notice that Murphy; the attorney who filed the suit on behalf of Ian’s sister-in-law commented? I couldn’t believe he said he thought that Ian had told the attorney for the defense that he was a relative who was going to testify as an expert and claim that the CHP officer who had investigated the accident didn’t know what he was doing and measured the wrong skid marks and then claim that the eye witness didn’t know what she saw and claim that his drunk father-in-law could not have avoided the accident and then claim that he was impartial. All that and the attorney for the defense thought it was OK according to Murphy! Murphy you should be disbarred, there isn’t an attorney out there, or judge or juror, or responsible citizen that believes you. Ian you should never serve in public service again unless it’s for the sanitation department.

LOL!! Tell that to the members of the SLOC Sheriff’s Department who arrested Matt Hart and stole his firearms!! LOL!!

You’ll never see charges since the District Attorney has endorsed Parkinson. Hedges and Parkinson are the evil Me and Mini Me of the central coast. With all of the extra income from his unlicensed investigation and accident construction business and running the security for the county fair, why was Parkinson unable to pay his taxes before going to lien? I also have to laugh at those blaming the reporter. Don’t like what you read? Dispute them with facts. Karen has developed a strong reputation for accuracy in her reporting and takes on the tough topics.

slowtime, you are assuming that the DA is honest and NOT part of the GOB network. RIGHT! There is so much corruption being uncovered in this county every day. The best any of us can hope for right now is that ALL incumbents be removed from office.

When you look below the icing on the central coast cake, what you find is a shit sandwich.