Angst in the Airwaves

Former Production Assistant Sues Santa Barbara Channels

Thursday, February 21, 2013
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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.


Independent Discussion Guidelines

Nick Welsh's reportage is flawed in one important respect.

Ms. Stokstad did not resign after she was threatened with being fired.

The Executive Director of TV Santa Barbara (as it's now called) can only be removed from his/her postion by action of the organization's Board of Directors; either by contractual notice (under limited circumstances described in the station's bylaws) or by not renewing the Executive Director's contract.

I was a member of TVSB's Board of Directors from September 2010 to September 2011. I participated in and witnessed the Board's renewal of her contract for one year. I have never had notice that the Board did not subsequently do the same.

Ms. Stokstad undertook management of TVSB at a time when the only public access television facility in Santa Barbara was threatened with extinction due to the same financial difficulties almost every other non-profit faced. (This is still the case with them all.)

To help cut the operational costs of the station, Ms. Stokstad implemented various options: reducing hours of operation, cutting the number of staff, seeking (successfully) to find a less expensive facility to house the station, etc.

Sylvia Rodriquez was not the first, or last, TVSB staff member to be let go.

I don't pretend to know what state law requires as proper grounds for dismissal of a staff member of a non-profit organization.

I do know this: I never saw or heard Ms. Stokstad speak to anyone except in a courteous, respectful way. On the other hand, on several occasions I saw and heard Ms. Rodriguez speak to,and of, people in a harsh, critical and undiplomatic manner.

William Smithers

bilwil (anonymous profile)
February 23, 2013 at 2:01 p.m. (Suggest removal)

There are at least two other corrections that should be made to this story:

1. The station staff was about 50% Latino, all of whom spoke spanish and english, so Ms. Rodriquez was not one of the station's few spanish-speaking employees.

2. Mr. Freund was not forced to resign; he actually gave the board of directors 3-4 months written notice that he did not want t renew his contract, ending seven years running the two channels.

wallymoon (anonymous profile)
February 24, 2013 at 1:34 p.m. (Suggest removal)

In both my interactions with, and my observations of Ms. Stokstad interacting with the station staff etc., I found her to be an utmost professional, dedicated to the station and its mission, and a warm, friendly individual to boot. The allegations seem completely out of character.

Ken_Volok (anonymous profile)
February 24, 2013 at 1:43 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Also, I'd fire anyone who was creating problems instead of solving them. Who doesn't or wouldn't? Running a station isn't a high school play, keep the drama in front of the camera or go someplace else is my opinion.

Ken_Volok (anonymous profile)
February 24, 2013 at 1:49 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Ahhh, play the race card without any contention of racism. Might as well try it, something good might happen.

Botany (anonymous profile)
February 24, 2013 at 2 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Botany, your comment made me feel like a stupid French peasant

Ken_Volok (anonymous profile)
February 24, 2013 at 2:15 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Thank you William Smithers for providing something more than the allegation cited in the article.

italiansurg (anonymous profile)
February 25, 2013 at 4:16 p.m. (Suggest removal)

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