SAG PR exex ankle amid internal strife

NY head says rift 'dangerous'

Top Screen Actors Guild public relations executives have resigned suddenly with one citing deep internal divisions within the 97,000-member union.

Katherine Moore, head of PR at the union’s Los Angeles headquarters, and New York PR chief Jayne Wallace announced their departures this week. Moore said she will take a leave until July to consult for a Web start-up, but Wallace cited “an unprofessional and hostile environment for many staffers” in her letter of resignation.

“Sadly, the rift that is beginning to emerge between the board and senior staff on both the local and national levels seems dangerous,” Wallace said. “When staff and members can’t work together like a team — in any organization — the foundation begins to erode. Many members, here and in Los Angeles, have little or no respect for senior staff’s experiences, abilities, objectivity and understanding of the issues.”

Opening up

SAG president William Daniels, elected last fall on a pledge to make the union’s operations more open to the members, said in response to Wallace’s letter: “I don’t know what she’s referring to. My promise to open up the union has been tremendously successful and the membership has been invigorated, so perhaps that’s unsettling to some people.”

Three other key staff members have left SAG during the past three weeks — public relations program director Rafe Greenlee, state legislative program chief Allison Booth and governmental relations head Catherine York, who will remain as a consultant into late summer.

Associate PR director Greg Krizman will fill Moore’s slot on an interim basis.

The departure of many of SAG’s public voices comes at a crucial time as the union prepares to resume separate negotiations with advertisers and agents next week. One board member admitted internal rifts remain following last fall’s bitterly contested election of Daniels, who ran as lead candidate of the Performers Alliance coalition with the promise of a more open union and a more aggressive bargaining stance.

New vs. old guard

One insider, who asked to remain anonymous, said, “There’s been a lot of resistance to the newly elected people on the part of the old guard, particularly now that the board isn’t rubber-stamping everything any more. Additionally, I’m never surprised when PR people leave after a change in administrations.”

Some grumbling within SAG emerged after Daniels decided in February to back away from a landmark deal with agents that would have allowed the tenpercenters to seek investment from producers and media companies in exchange for enhanced protections for actors. Daniels said the matter should be voted on by the entire membership, prompting one SAG negotiator to called SAG’s behavior “a disgrace.”

All five departing officials were appointed under Richard Masur, who Daniels defeated. Moore joined SAG in 1996 and oversaw the creation of its Web site, an archive of SAG’s history and the union’s Indie Outreach Campaign. Wallace, who joined in 1998 as SAG’s first PR chief in New York, plans to join an undisclosed entertainment company.

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