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Carpinteria resident, former EPA official sues his boss over dismissal

Mike Stoker

SANTA BARBARA, Calif. - When Carpinteria resident Mike Stoker was let go from the Environmental Protection Agency as a regional leader, he didn't like the words used to describe his work ethic. That's led to a lawsuit against former E.P.A. chief Andrew Wheeler and three others.

Stoker left the E.P.A. in early 2020. This came after issues were raised about excessive travel while he was in charge of a broad area known as Region 9 with the department.

That includes California, Nevada, Arizona, Hawaii, the Pacific Island Territories and 148 Indian tribes.

At the time of his departure, Stoker said he was well-received on his trips from government officials and tribal leaders. Some had rarely seen an E.P.A. official until Stoker arrived, he said.

Stoker is previously a Santa Barbara County Supervisor who has served in both the second district and the fifth district. He began in local politics in the 1980s.

He is represented by Santa Barbara Attorney Jordan Hankey in this lawsuit.

Hankey says Stoker's suit is for $2.9 million.

In the court filing, Hankey said the defendants are Andrew Wheeler (former head of the E.P.A.), Douglas Benevento, Ryan Jackson and Corry Schiermeyer (E.P.A. administrators).

After Stoker was out of the position, Hankey said there were published reports that damaged Stoker's reputation. He says information for those reports came from the defendants.

One quote was: "Mike was too interested in travel for the sake of travel and ignored necessary decision making required of a regional administrator.”

Hankey said, "Mike was always a boots on the ground  type of guy and he liked getting things done and being in in it."

In the following days from his departure last February, Stoker was presented in a false light and it was disparaging to his good name and reputation.

"Those allegations  are harmful they have hurt Mr. Stoker in his profession and his reputation as well," said Hankey. "We were absolutely shocked when we saw the allegations for the reason for his termination which was the  dereliction of his duties."

It caused him emotional distress and economic loss, Hankey said.

Stoker is 65 and had planned to continue working but said he has since had trouble landing a job. During his time at the E.P.A., Stoker made $192,000.

They hope to have a resolution on this claim and a name clearing hearing in 12-18 months.

The lawsuit lists damages that break down like this:

Past Economic Loss$192,000
Future Economic Loss$960,000
Harm to Reputation$200,000
Feeling of Shame$50,000
Punitive Damages$1,500,000

Article Topic Follows: Local Politics

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John Palminteri

John Palminteri is senior reporter for KEYT News Channel 3-12. To learn more about John, click here.


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