Photo courtesy Cal Poly Pomona.
Photo courtesy Cal Poly Pomona.

The former head trainer at the W.K. Kellogg Arabian Horse Center at Cal Poly Pomona is suing the university, alleging he was demoted to a position tantamount to a pig farmer because he’s black and for complaining about “unethical conduct” by some members of the center’s board of directors.

Mark Stinson is seeking unspecified damages on allegations of race discrimination, failure to prevent discrimination, retaliation and defamation.

A Cal Poly Pomona spokesman said he would check to see if the university has a response.

According to the lawsuit filed Monday in Los Angeles Superior Court, Stinson was hired as a trainer at the university in December 1994 and was eventually named head trainer during a 20-year span in which he received “only glowing performance evaluations.”

Most horse trainers are white, and for a black man like Stinson to have the position was “unusual, particularly at a prestigious location such as the center,” his court papers state.

He alleges that a man who was hired in 2011 as director of the center and a woman tapped as dean of the College of Agriculture in 2014, both of whom are white, were mostly unreceptive to Stinson’s repeated complaints that some members of the center’s board of directors were involved in “unethical conduct.”

The alleged misconduct included the trade by one board member of “four, unsuitable poor quality and/or used-up horses for one Arabian horse,” allowing him to reduce his feed and associated care costs substantially, according to the suit.

“Plaintiff objected to this self-dealing trade as it amounted to a theft from the university of approximately $60,000,” the suit says.

Another board member proposed a takeover of Stinson’s job of overseeing horse sales by conducting an auction in which he would receive a booking fee plus a commission, even though Stinson was already performing sales as part of his regular duties, the suit states.

Despite his history of good performance reviews, Stinson says he was given a negative draft evaluation last October that contained “numerous false statements,” which the plaintiff maintains were defamatory.

Stinson “immediately renewed his prior complaints and attributed this poor evaluation as retribution based on plaintiff’s race and his complaints,” the lawsuit states.

Stinson later received an amended review that “served as a confirmation that the draft contained blatant falsehoods,” the suit alleges.

However, Stinson in February was demoted from head horse trainer to a technician in the sheep/swine unit, a change of duties “from the nationally recognized head trainer at the Arabian Horse Center to pig farmer,” according to the lawsuit.

— Wire reports 

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