SAG’s former communications director Katherine Moore, who was fired in 2000, has sued SAG over being wrongly blamed for allegedly rigging a 1998 national exec committee election.
The suit, filed Monday in Los Angeles Superior Court, resurrects an event that has been the source of long-standing disputes among SAG staff and political factions. SAG had no immediate comment about the suit.
Moore, who listed 14 causes of action, also sued the now-inactive Performers Alliance, Performers Alliance Web site operator Gordon Drake, the SAG Foundation and 50 unnamed individuals. In the action, she accused former SAG president William Daniels, Daniels’ wife Bonnie Bartlett, current SAG director of member education Todd Amorde and former board members Robert Carlson, David Jolliffe, F.J. O’Neill and Chuck Sloan as making “false, defamatory and malicious accusations.”
Drake was accused of ignoring a demand to remove a report about the disputed election by former State Supreme Court Justice Joseph Grodin from the Performers Alliance site. The SAG Foundation was accused of leaking confidential information.
Moore said SAG and other defendants have “perpetrated a scheme to defame her in order to cover-up SAG’s own complicity with the fixing of the 1998 election” and claimed she has suffered monetary damages, loss of career advancement opportunities and loss of earnings and earnings capacity.
She also asserted she is innocent of any wrongdoing and that an investigation into the election by Grodin was “incomplete, inconclusive and unfinished.”
Grodin, who was hired by SAG to conduct the probe, concluded that there likely was “intentional wrongdoing” in the 1998 election at SAG’s Hollywood headquarters. The first counting of 46 ballots led to victories by candidates who were less friendly to the Performers Alliance; the second counting led to the Performers Alliance candidates winning the seats.
He also determined that the “most probable explanation” for the markedly different tallies that resulted from separate ballot counts in the election was some deliberate action by at least one of three tellers — SAG staffers Moore, Catherine York and Judy Carpenter — and that the most feasible motivation was political.
When Grodin issued his report in early 1999, the trio responded by declaring their innocence, threatening legal action and insisting that the ballots had been switched after the trio had counted them. Moore repeated the ballot-swapping accusation in her suit, pointing out that she, York and Carpenter were not present when the ballots were re-counted.
However, Grodin said in his report that the ballot-swapping scenario was “exceedingly unlikely.” And he said that the disparity in results “seemed too significant to be accidental.”
Following a bitter debate in the wake of receiving Grodin’s report, SAG’s national board voted 55-30 to approve a resolution that declared the “unfortunate matter closed” and found “no fault with any of the participants.”
But Moore’s suit said SAG’s actions led to Moore’s being made a scapegoat. “Instead of finding the truth about the rigged election of 1998, Defendant SAG permitted Justice Grodin to make an inconclusive finding and speculate on those to blame, wrongly choosing Plaintiff Moore,” she said.
The incident galvanized the Performers Alliance in efforts to win the subsequent 1999 election, which saw Daniels upset two-term incumbent Richard Masur. Moore asserted in her suit that SAG attorneys told her during that campaign that the Performers Alliance was protected by the First Amendment including the assertions from Grodin’s report.
Moore said that when she was fired in 2000, SAG backed off on a previous promise to issue a favorable press statement about her departure. She also asserted that SAG failed to disavow false published statements about her role in the 1998 election.
Moore’s attorney Marvin Rudnick told Daily Variety he began discussing the possibility of reaching a settlement with SAG last November but those talks broke down in March with Guild assistant general counsel Vicki Shapiro asserting SAG would “aggressively” defend itself.
He admitted that Moore’s 2000 severance agreement prevented her from filing suit against SAG but asserted the agreement had been nullified because the Guild breached that pact.
Moore, who was hired in 1996, also accused the Guild of acting out of political expediency with the goal of reducing tension at that time between supporters of Daniels and Masur.
The power of the Performers Alliance has been significantly diminished in recent elections. The group switched its name to the Leadership Coalition in the last election and currently counts less than a dozen supporters on the current board.