Mike Stoker, a Carpinteria resident and former regional administrator for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, is suing his former EPA bosses on defamation charges in federal court.
The Pacific Coast Business Times reached out to both Stoker and Andrew Wheeler, the administrator of then-President Donald Trump’s EPA while Stoker was a regional administrator. Neither was available to comment. Jordan Hankley, Stoker’s attorney in the matter, did agree to an interview.
Stoker, a Santa Barbara County supervisor in the 1980s and 1990s, oversaw EPA Region 9, which includes California, Arizona, Hawaii, Nevada, U.S territories in the Pacific islands and the lands of 148 tribal nations. He was appointed in May 2018 and worked for the EPA for almost two years before he was dismissed on Feb. 5, 2020.
In the lawsuit, Stoker claims he was not given a reason for why he was being fired and was told by Douglas Benevento and Ryan Jackson—EPA officials also named in the lawsuit—that it wasn’t personal.
EPA officials made several public statements regarding to Stoker’s termination, including saying that he traveled too often, that he needed to be asked several times to conduct basic job responsibilities and that he was fired for not doing his job and not doing it well.
In his lawsuit, Stoker claims he never given a writeup or verbal warnings for his work and was told he was traveling the appropriate amount. Stoker also said in the lawsuit that all of his travel was approved by the EPA
Stoker’s lawsuit was filed Jan. 27 in federal court in Los Angeles and names Wheeler as well as three of his deputies: Benevento, Jackson and Corry Schiermeyer.
In December, a little more than a month before filing the suit, Stoker tried to settle with the plaintiffs out of court for $850,000, according to a letter from Hankley, his attorney. Stoker estimates his damages at a little under $3 million, the letter said, which includes past economic harm and future losses from his inability to find other employment since being terminated, hard to his reputation and punitive damages. In addition to those alleged losses, Stoker is asking Wheeler and the other former EPA officials to pay his court costs and legal fees.
“This lawsuit is about setting the record straight, clearing Mr. Stoker’s good name and holding the defendants accountable for what we believe is outrageous conduct,” Hankley said.
Hankley said that since being terminated from the EPA, Stoker has not been able to secure any similar employment. Shortly after his termination, Stoker was appointed to be the federal representative to the Western Interstate Energy Compact, where he was reimbursed for expenses but not paid a salary.