October 7, 2010
Ian Parkinson, the front runner in the November election for county Sheriff, defended his actions Thursday as an expert witness in a 2000 civil trial. [KSBY]
Parkinson has come under criticism after CalCoastNews reported that the San Luis Obispo police officer and accident reconstructionist failed to publicly reveal that the plaintiff in the case was a relative.
Rita Tavernetti, Parkinson’s sister-in-law, was awarded $1.4 million following the death of her father in an automobile accident in Monterey County. Parkinson’s testimony during the trial contradicted eyewitness accounts and a report by the CHP that both supported the other side.
A review of the trial transcripts by CalCoastNews indicates that neither Parkinson nor the plaintiff’s attorney, James Murphy of Arroyo Grande, ever revealed the family connection to the judge or jury.
“I disclosed it to the attorney. The attorney says he disclosed it at least twice,” Parkinson said on Thursday, referring to Murphy.
The defendant’s attorney died a few years ago. Both his co-counsel and private investigator told CalCoastNews that they were never aware of the Parkinson-Tavernetti connection.
When asked by a reporter if Parkinson’s involvement in the case was ethical, the candidate responded by saying, “You keep going down to ethics and the challenge here is, when you disclose it, it’s very ethical.” Parkinson also insisted other accident experts testified on behalf of Tavernetti.
As reported by CalCoastNews earlier this week, 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 in the accident that killed Tavernetti’s dad.
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.
Parkinson also claimed that his relationship to Tavernetti was “irrelevant” to his testimony because “the accident reconstructionist just says how the accident happened.”
In addition, Parkinson said that he had asked if he was required to have a city business license and had been told he did not need one.
Asked to comment Thursday afternoon, Parkinson’s opponent, retired police chief Joe Cortez said he would “let the voters decide” how important the allegations were.