SAG exec under fire

McGuire dismissal sought over vote mess

One of the candidates slotted for the rerun of last fall’s SAG election has called for firing longtime SAG exec John McGuire because of his supervision of election violations.

Treasurer candidate Kathleen Haigney issued the request Friday to Screen Actors Guild CEO Robert Pisano in a blistering resignation letter from her slot as chair of SAG’s National Dancers Committee. She named Allen Walls as her replacement.

“I am doing this to protest the ongoing 2001 election fraud debacle, which is undermining the integrity of this union,” she wrote. “After 35 years in the dance world, I no longer want my good name associated with an organization that I believe to be corrupt.”

Haigney had asked Pisano in early November to fire national deputy exec director John Sucke, national director of guild governance Clinta Dayton and New York executive secretary Ruth Baptiste for bungling election procedures. The elections committee subsequently blamed the trio of execs for allowing the election to be run with two different sets of procedures and concluded that the conduct fell “far short” of providing a level playing field for candidates.

Ballots in the belfry

Haigney noted that SAG exec Sallie Weaver told the elections committee that Sucke campaigned to remove the signature line on New York ballots last March. Sucke has claimed he did not notice the removal of the line — a violation of New York rules — when he approved proofs of the ballots six months later.

Haigney pointed out that McGuire, now a senior SAG adviser on a three-year $600,000 contract, was the immediate supervisor of the trio prior to Pisano’s Sept. 10 appointment as CEO. “He clearly had the responsibility of ensuring the election was run correctly before you came on board,” Haigney said in the letter. “As your senior adviser, he also had the responsibility of apprising you of all you needed to know to guarantee that something as important as our national election was run according to our rules of procedure.”

Chain of command

Haigney also cited a March 2000 email from Baptiste to New York staff in which Baptiste said McGuire had instructed her to not respond to communications from then-New York president Lisa Scarola and refer those to the national board. Baptiste said that the SAG staff in New York should also not respond to any communication from Scarola except for employer-related grievances but instead refer those matters to Baptiste.

Haigney said Baptiste’s missive was an example of “the level of duplicity and contempt that these same employees have exhibited toward our duly elected officials.”

Scarola also demanded in a Jan. 9 letter that Pisano fire Baptiste, Sucke and Dayton, citing their alleged violation of rules by failing to hire a CPA to conduct the election in New York and her estimated cost of the rerun election. She also repeated an earlier demand that Pisano investigate alleged criminal behavior by former SAG treasurer Gerald Wilson.

Expensive mistakes

“Your actions have cost the union members close to $300,000 of their dues money,” Scarola said. “The waste of union members’ dues money because of the incompetent actions of union staff will no longer be tolerated.”

SAG staff has maintained a 3-month-old no-comment policy about the election and stonewalled questions about the fate of Baptiste, Dayton and Sucke. SAG’s elections committee has set a Feb. 11-March 8 voting period.

SAG staff also ruled three weeks ago that the winners — Melissa Gilbert for president, Elliott Gould for secretary and Kent McCord for treasurer — would serve in the interim, despite the invalidation of the election. The SAG national board will be asked today by presidential candidate Eugene Boggs to overturn that decision and by Gilbert supporters to throw out the elections committee decision due to allegations that the committee was not validly constituted.

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