Exec ankles, sez the 'team feeling is missing'

Screen Actors Guild’s national director of organizing Jerre Hookey, in a move underscoring SAG’s internal turmoil, has announced he will resign on July 29.

Hookey, who is also SAG’s southwestern regional director and a key behind-the-scenes player, said the move was due mainly to his desire to give his family more stability by returning to his original home in Tennessee from his Denver base. He said SAG’s staff has been unable to operate effectively due to the inability of top SAG execs to agree on goals and strategy.

“The team feeling is missing,” Hookey said in an interview with Daily Variety. “We are not working in the same direction any more. The hours have gotten longer and longer and my future remains uncertain.”

Hookey, who has worked for SAG since 1975, stressed that his decision is not related to dissatisfaction with SAG prexy William Daniels who won the post in 1999 after a bitter campaign against incumbent Richard Masur.

“This is not a question of abandoning Bill Daniels and his administration,” he said. “I fully support their efforts. I feel firmly that staff has to support whoever is elected.”

Staff woes

Hookey also said staff has been hampered in addressing long-range problems because SAG national exec director John McGuire and Hollywood branch exec director Leonard Chassman have deferred action until a replacement for retired national exec director Ken Orsatti is found. McGuire and Chassman are not seeking Orsatti’s post and Chassman is retiring while McGuire wants to cut back on his work load.

“It’s an awkward situation,” Hookey said. “The staff is foundering a little bit.”

Hookey refused to say whether his comments about executive disunity were directed at McGuire, who was not available for comment. Daniels and his supporters clashed repeatedly with McGuire last year over strategy during the six-month strike against advertisers.

Hookey’s move comes at a crucial time with SAG only weeks away from starting film-TV contract negotiations with studios. His concerns echo the comments from last year’s blistering report by the Towers Perrin consulting firm, which summed up SAG’s operations as “organizational chaos” and asserted that the problems derived from years of power struggles between various member factions, officers and staff.

The Towers Perrin recommendations, which have provoked further internal battling, include more than $8 million of costs cuts such as closing more than 20 SAG branch offices and cutting the size of the board from 105 to 40.

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