The family of a mentally ill man who died in the SLO County Jail last year donated $50,000 to two men running against the sitting sheriff and district attorney.
Carty Holland donated $25,000 to Greg Clayton, a local private investigator challenging Sheriff Ian Parkinson, and another $25,000 to Judge Mike Cummins for his run against SLO County District Attorney Dan Dow, according to campaign finance records.
"My wife and I met with both candidates, and we were encouraged on multiple levels," Carty told New Times. "They are motivated to reform a broken system."
Carty's son, Andrew Holland, a 36-year-old Atascadero man suffering from schizophrenia, died at the jail on Jan. 22, 2017, after spending 46 hours strapped into a restraint chair. His death sparked outrage over the treatment of mentally ill inmates at the jail, resulting in an FBI civil rights investigation and a $5 million settlement between the county and Holland's family.
In the wake of the settlement, Carty and his wife, Sharon, called on Parkinson to resign. The family has also criticized Dow for not investigating Andrew's death, with Carty telling New Times that the district attorney "ignored a brutal death under his nose."
"There's really been no accountability," Carty said. "We don't hold anything personally against either one of these gentlemen, but their actions have been fundamentally wrong for a person or persons in those positions."
Clayton, a former SLO police officer who's worked as a private investigator for the last 25 years, said he was approached by a group of county residents, including the Hollands, and encouraged to run. He said he made his decision to challenge Parkinson after watching video footage of Andrew's 46 hours in the restraint chair and subsequent death, calling it "one of the most troubling things I've seen in my life," and placing the blame squarely on Parkinson's shoulders.
"The reality is, the buck stops at his desk," Clayton said. "He is responsible for Andrew Holland's death."
As part of his campaign platform, Clayton said he wants to create a citizens oversight committee for the jail and advocate for a dedicated psychiatric facility within the jail, among other reforms.
Cummins, a former attorney and retired Stanislaus County judge, has said that if elected, he will investigate the deaths at the county jail, including Andrew's. He said he was contacted by the Holland family shortly after The Tribune published his comments on the issue in a Jan. 14 article.
Speaking with New Times, Cummins said he believed that Dow's decision not to investigate the death was politically motivated.
"I think [Dow] handled it very poorly," Cummins said.
Since the announcement of the settlement, the Hollands formed the nonprofit Andrew Holland Foundation to advocate for and support mentally ill individuals in the criminal justice system and their families, and continue to call for reforms at the SLO County Jail, where the family held a vigil to mark the one year anniversary of Andrew's death on Jan. 22.
"We want to use any avenue that we can take to bring a greater understanding to those who are the most vulnerable in that system," Carty said. Δ