Silvia Rodriguez, a former production assistant with Santa Barbara Channels — Santa Barbara’s public-access combined broadcasting stations — filed a wrongful termination lawsuit against the station, alleging that she was fired in October 2010 after voicing criticisms of station director Keri Stokstad’s management style to Stokstad directly. According to the legal pleadings, Rodriquez complained to Stokstad on several occasions that her leadership style engendered widespread demoralization among station staff, describing her as harsh, impersonal, and disinterested. Ten days after the last such exchange — which Rodriguez stated took place September 29, 2010 — Rodriguez contended that Stokstad fired her, allegedly complaining that Rodriguez had been “badmouthing” her. Rodriguez, one of the few Spanish-speaking employees the station had, said that by repeatedly ignoring her concerns, Stokstad made her “feel like a Mexican laborer that needed to just shut up.” Nowhere in the legal papers does Rodriguez indicate that Stokstad used ethnically charged language.
Station management declined to comment; Stokstad, who now works for a public-access station in Pasadena, also declined to comment. She took the helm of Santa Barbara Channels during an especially turbulent time in its history. Her predecessor, Hap Freund, had been forced to resign under intense pressure by new members of the board after many years at the helm. At the same time, the station’s contribution from Santa Barbara City Hall had been cut by a sizable amount. Stokstad’s appointment, however, did little to abate the tensions, and she resigned to take a job elsewhere after the board attempted to fire her.