San Diego Pride's former executive director is suing the organization for wrongful termination, age discrimination, and defamation of character.
Stephen Whitburn, also a former city-council candidate, began working for San Diego Pride in 2013 as an independent contractor. Within months Whitburn was given a job as general manager. The following year he was promoted to executive director.
But according to the lawsuit, trouble began in February 2015. It was then that Whitburn told the board that one of its members had improperly solicited and paid a performer at that year's festival.
By April of the following year, tensions between Whitburn and some boardmembers intensified. The board gave Whitburn written warnings.
In August 2016 Whitburn was officially terminated from his job, as reported by San Diego Gay and Lesbian News. The decision did not sit well with staff. On September 7, they called a special meeting to demand Whitburn be reinstated. It didn't work.
The following day, rumors swirled that Whitburn had taken money and important files from the organization; Whitburn says they were allegations meant to defame him and find cause for his termination.
Whitburn also claims there was a pattern of ageism within Pride. During his time, boardmembers would refer to him as "Pride Daddy."
Reads the lawsuit, "Pride had a pattern and practice of discriminating in employment against individuals who are age 40 and older."
They did so by refusing to hire people over 40 and ”treating adversely individuals who are 40 years old and older, and treating preferentially individuals who are under 40 years old."
Neither Whitburn's attorney nor San Diego Pride responded to a request for comment.