The volatile Screen Actors Guild election in New York has seen candidates selected by SAG's nominating committee soundly defeat Clean Slate for the eastern branch's five, three-year open seats on the national board of directors.
Clean Slate, a group aligned with SAG/NY's controversial president, Lisa Scarola, has said it will file a formal protest, accusing Save SAG supporters of—among other things—"stuffing ballots" to win the election. Save SAG is the political organization which actively campaigned on behalf of the nominating committee candidates.
Meanwhile, Scarola, who was not a candidate because she has one year left to her two-year presidential term, has responded to charges from a SAG-Producers health plan trustee. Joyce Gordon has accused SAG/NY's chief executive and Clean Slate of a "falsified statement" e-mailed to SAG voters. The e-mail appears to be a reprint of an e-mail Gordon sent in October in which she explains points she made in an earlier letter regarding the health plan.
The five Save SAG candidates individually garnered votes ranging from over 5,000 to 3,700. Each of Clean Slate's candidates managed no more than 1,600 tops.
Noted actor Tony Roberts led all candidates with 5,112 votes. The rest of his nominating committee candidates—Michelle Hurd (5,049), Skip Sudduth (4,682), Skip Hinnant (4,487), and Angel Elon (3,726)—immediately followed him.
Four of the five Clean Slaters ranked sixth through ninth in the voting: Yaffa Amato-Sharir (1,612), Timothy Klein (1,597), Marilyn Roberts (1,568), and Charles Gemmill (1,541). The fifth Clean Slater, Ben V. Bergen, came in 12th in the voting with 1,101.
Esai Morales (1,371) and Lee Wong (1,215) led in votes for the nine independent candidates not aligned with a slate.
There were 8,269 ballots cast in SAG/NY election.
Only two of the candidates are currently serving on the SAG/NY board: the nominating committee's Hinnant, who will return, and Clean Slate's Roberts, who will not.
A major battle between those backing the nominating committee and Clean Slate has been over SAG/NY senior staff. Scarola and her supporters have been highly critical of John McGuire, SAG's national associate executive director, and John Sucke, SAG/NY's executive director. Save SAG leaders have proved highly supportive of the two men.
So a win by the five nominating committee members should solidify the hold on the SAG/NY board of those aligned with the guild's senior staff.
Clean Slate's Complaint
Clean Slate at press time was preparing to file an election complaint with SAG/NY's election committee and Sucke. The complaint would list two major grievances: (1) inadequate ballot safeguards which resulted in "ballot stuffing," or illegally including ballots which were not actually cast by SAG voters; (2) using union resources, primarily meaning the headquarters set up to supervise the recent commercials-contract strike, to campaign against Clean Slate candidates.
According to a draft of Clean Slate's complaint, obtained by Back Stage, the complainants said that, during the Nov. 3 ballot count, they found ballots "that could not be accounted for on the membership list" or a duplicate list a SAG employee holds during the count. Neither SAG employees nor the Sequoia Pacific representative, with the accounting firm charged with the ballot count, could explain where those ballots came from, the complaint noted.
The complaint also repeated a number of objections raised earlier in the campaign by Scarola's attorney, Arthur Schwartz. Those included using the strike headquarters to "store, photocopy, and distribute nominating committee/Save SAG election materials"; utilizing SAG phone lists and SAG e-mail lists at strike headquarters for election purposes; and placing SAG nominating committee names, celebrity names, and strike-team names on campaign material to imply individual endorsement of nominating committee members. Save SAG leaders have previously denied those charges.
After Clean Slate files its complaint, it will go to the SAG/NY elections committee, which will determine its validity, and whether any action should be taken. If Clean Slate isn't happy with the outcome of that decision, it can file a complaint with the federal Labor Department.
A major issue of contention during the campaign has involved financial figures for the SAG-Producers health plan. Clean Slate candidates have argued that health-plan trustees basically haven't been honest with SAG members, hoarding a $179 million surplus which should be used to include more members in the plan.
Winning candidate Hinnant has argued that the money does not make up a surplus. It's the plan's reserve fund, he says, which is used for emergencies. For example, with the current commercials strike, many SAG members aren't making money and so can't contribute to the plan. The trustees then can draw from the reserve to cover the shortage and make medical payments.
Clean Slate's stance has infuriated health plan trustees like Joyce Gordon and Larry Keith, both SAG members, who feel the slate has impugned their integrity. Keith, a member of the nominating committee, made no bones about the fact that he was working with Save SAG in support of the nom panel's candidates.
Gordon has faxed Back Stage what she calls "their forged doctored version" of a longer Oct. 18 e-mail she sent explaining several positions on the health-plan bout. She included a copy of "my original" e-mail. It includes criticisms and questions about Scarola which are left out of the "doctored" version.
Asked if she or Clean Slate had distributed the "doctored" e-mail, Scarola replied, "What makes her say Clean Slate sent it?" She said that Gordon "has four or five e-mails floating out there," so she wasn't sure which one Gordon referred to. She added, "You can't trust anything Joyce Gordon says. In an e-mail I received, she said trustees don't make a report on the health plan; but I have New York board-meeting minutes in November that show that most of a report about the health plan was mostly given by Joyce Gordon."
Best in the West
On the West Coast, Hollywood SAG members elected 25 to the board, 20 to three-year terms, including a cast of big names. Valerie Harper led all candidates with 7,099 votes, followed by 6,000+ vote-getters Tom Bosley, the late Steve Allen, Elliott Gould, and Melissa Gilbert. SAG's board replacement committee will address the issue of who will fill Allen's seat. The great entertainer died Oct. 31 at the age of 78.
Fred Savage was the only 5,000+ vote recipient, followed in the 4,000+ category by Sally Kirkland, Anne-Marie Johnson, Wil Wheaton, and Frances Fisher.
Other three-year winners were Joe Pantoliano, George Coe, Kevin Kilner, Renee Aubry, David Huddleston, Eugene Boggs, Aki Aleong, DeWayne Williams, Racheal Seymour, and Todd Susman.
Two-year winners included Angeltompkins, Jennifer Aquino, and Steve Barr. One-year terms went to Wren T. Brown and Peter Mark Richman.
The Hollywood election brought a legion of candidates, resulting in 49 who didn't make the cut. That number included two big surprises. One was Chuck Sloan, a confidante of William Daniels, SAG's national president. The other was Gordon Drake, who had been SAG's national strike captain during the recent six-month commercials-contract strike.