A former Las Vegas city government executive claims then-Deputy City Manager Scott Adams called him an “old fart” and co-workers mocked him for suffering from asthma attacks before he was fired last year, according to a federal lawsuit.
Phil Stoeckinger claims city officials broke federal laws against age and disability discrimination when he lost his job as deputy director of economic and urban development in October 2017.
Stoeckinger, then 53, was replaced by Jason Thompson, a new hire in his mid-40s, according to the lawsuit.
“I think they wanted to replace me with somebody younger,” Stoeckinger told the Review-Journal. “It’s really disappointing and disheartening. I loved working at the city. I’ve always enjoyed the challenge.”
Stoeckinger filed a complaint in July with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. In September he filed suit, demanding that he be reinstated to his former position. He’s also asking for lost earnings, benefits and attorney’s fees.
Las Vegas officials declined an interview. City spokesman Jace Radke in an email described the end of Stoeckinger’s employment as a “separation.”
A former finance director for North Las Vegas, Stoeckinger joined the Las Vegas department of economic and urban development in 2010. He was promoted to the office’s deputy director position in April 2016.
Stoeckinger said he was never cited for unsatisfactory job performance, so he was surprised to hear his boss, department director Bill Arent, announce in January 2017 that Stoeckinger would retire later that year. Stoeckinger claims he was pressured to retire by upper management, including Adams.
That same January, Adams announced in a meeting Thompson would be hired to co-serve as deputy director to capitalize on institutional knowledge held by “old farts,” the lawsuit claims. Stoeckinger said the comment was directed at him.
Stoeckinger’s lawsuit also lists examples of disability discrimination.
Between April and September 2017, a cartoon of three blind mice was posted on Stoeckinger’s office door. One of the mice, which was drawn bumping into a wall, had Stoeckinger’s written name over it.
Stoeckinger said he believes the cartoon was in reference to an eye surgery he was scheduled to undergo, and that it was also making fun of him for hitting his head when passed out during a staff meeting “a couple of years earlier.” Co-workers had given him hard-hats to wear around the office after the episode, which was brought on by an asthma attack.
Stoeckinger said he was called into Arent’s office in September 2017 and told his career with the city would end in early October as part of a reduction of force. However, Stoeckinger said no one else was let go.
“In essence, I was fired,” he said.