Election Insider: SAG Leaders' Email Exchange

Back Stage obtained the following email exchange between Screen Actors Guild 1st vice president Anne-Marie Johnson and national board of directors candidate Ned Vaughn. Both Johnson and Vaughn verified the authenticity of the messages, in which Johnson, leader of SAG's MembershipFirst party, and Vaughn, co-founder of the Unite for Strength party, discuss the possibility of a jointly organized campaign event. As of publication, no such event had been scheduled.

************************

From: Anne-Marie Johnson
Sent: Friday, August 27, 2010 12:02 PM
To: Ned Vaughn
Cc: Joe d'Angerio
Subject: Invitation

August 27, 2010

Dear Ned:

We both know how important it is to get accurate information out to our members before they are asked to vote on something as important as our upcoming elections. Because of this, we are inviting you and members of your slate to a taped, unedited 2010 SAG Hollywood Board Seat Election Debate, to be aired on our respective websites. I'm sure you're just as frustrated as we are with the tit-for-tat, he-said-she-said nature of these elections. Well, let's together work on making it a little easier for our members to make a decision.

Robert's Rules Of Debate should be followed. We suggest involving no more than 4 candidates from each slate and a mutually agreed upon moderator to facilitate. The location should offer limited seating that can be equally shared by both parties. All expenses should be shared equally.

If you accept our invitation, I suggest both parties' campaign managers work out the details as quickly as possible and set a debate date within the next ten days.

Open and unfiltered information, as in a debate format, is one of the best ways to communicate with our members and fulfill our obligations to them. We hope you'll agree.

Due to the election calendar, we'd appreciate a written response, via email, no later than August 29th.

Sincerely,

Anne-Marie Johnson
Joe d'Angerio
MembershipFirst Campaign Managers

************************

From: Ned Vaughn
Sent: Sunday, August 29, 2010 10:35 PM
To: 'Anne-Marie Johnson'
Cc: 'Joe d'Angerio'
Subject: RE: Invitation

Dear Anne-Marie and Joe,

The best way to communicate with members is to talk with them directly. Past elections have included "Meet the Candidates" events at the Guild, and this is a perfect opportunity to hold another. We can arrange something through the Governance Department, as provided for in our election guidelines.

Limiting the number of participants in a formal debate setting won't allow members to question the candidates they want to hear from, including those not affiliated with our slates. The positions of UFS and MF have been clearly defined by our groups' records – but a chance for members to meet the candidates in person and discuss their specific concerns would be valuable.

Sincerely,
Ned

************************

From: Anne-Marie Johnson
Sent: Monday, August 30, 2010 10:38 AM
To: Ned Vaughn
Cc: Joe d'Angerio; Assaf Cohen
Subject: Re: Invitation

August 30, 2010

Dear Ned;

Thank you for your response.

We are disappointed that you have declined the invitation to debate. It's hard to understand why, once again, you are refusing to provide the opportunity for thousands of Hollywood SAG members to see and hear board candidates debate the myriad issues facing our union.

If it is your concern that our initial invitation to debate did not include the participation of independent candidates, we can certainly rectify that. Both slates can choose one or two independent candidates and include them in the debate. It's a simple solution.

Although the "Meet the Candidates" event cannot come close to the usefulness of a streamed debate, MembershipFirst has no reservations regarding our participation. But I find your reasons for not wanting to debate somewhat questionable. If you are not willing to participate in a streamed debate because, "Limiting the number of participants in a formal debate setting won't allow members to question the candidates they want to hear from...", there are certainly no guarantees that all 75 Board candidates would be available to participate in a Guild sponsored "Meet the Candidates" event, which may also not "allow members to question the candidates they want to hear from."

Why don't we agree to do the aforementioned debate and a Guild sponsored "Meet the Candidates"? We believe this compromise will provide our members the information needed to make an informed decision.

Due to the campaign schedule, please respond to this invitation to do both events no later than 11:00 a.m., August 31, 2010.

Sincerely,
Anne-Marie Johnson
Joe d'Angerio
MembershipFirst Campaign Managers.

************************

From: Ned Vaughn
Sent: Tuesday, August 31, 2010 10:48 AM
To: 'Anne-Marie Johnson'
Cc: 'Joe d'Angerio'; 'Assaf Cohen'
Subject: RE: Invitation

Dear Anne-Marie and Joe:

The positions of Unite for Strength and MembershipFirst have been firmly established by their records. We believe SAG members are clear about the type of leadership each group will provide.

Meeting the candidates from our slates, along with all the independent candidates (not just a few arbitrarily chosen by us), would offer members the chance to talk directly with the individuals seeking their votes. We believe that kind of open exchange would be more productive than the theatrics of a staged debate. I'll call you so we can look into dates and times with the Governance Department.

Sincerely,
Ned

************************

From: Anne-Marie Johnson
Sent: Tuesday, August 31, 2010 11:22 AM
To: Ned Vaughn
Cc: Assaf Cohen; Joe d'Angerio
Subject: Invitation

Good Morning Ned;

Thank you for your response.

We should then proceed immediately with the steps it'll take to arrange a "Meet The Candidates" event. I'll contact Michelle Bennett to get a sense of the particulars and the availability of the Cagney Board Room.

And just so I'm clear; You, on behalf of UFS, are declining M1st's invitation to a candidates debate? I'm only asking because I presented what M1st believes is a fair compromise but it appears that you are saying "no" to the second half of the compromise. Is that correct? If I've misunderstood your response, please let me know ASAP.

Take care,
Anne-Marie

************************

From: Anne-Marie Johnson
Sent: Tuesday, August 31, 2010 12:24 PM
To: Ned Vaughn
Subject: Fwd: Meet The Candidates

Begin forwarded message:

Already on it.

amj

************************

From: Anne Johnson
Date: August 31, 2010 11:55:13 AM PDT
To: Michelle Bennett
Subject: Meet The Candidates

Hello Michelle:

I know you are jammed packed with meetings, but when you get a moment, could you provide me with the particulars for putting together a SAG Meet The Candidates Event?
U4S and M1st are interested in having one this year.

Thanks,
amj

************************

From: Ned Vaughn
Sent: Tuesday, August 31, 2010 3:12 PM
To: 'Anne-Marie Johnson'
Subject: RE: Meet The Candidates

Hi Anne-Marie,

Thanks, I spoke with Michelle also. Sounds like an email poll should go out to the Hollywood Board ASAP. I suspect there will be strong support and assuming it's approved, we should move forward as quickly as possible.

Michelle raised the concern that a format including introductions and a designated speaking period for each candidate could leave little time for members to talk directly with the candidates. A mixer format would obviously provide the best opportunity for members to discuss issues with the candidates.

I'm heading out for a while, but hopefully you can get the email poll out today.

Ned

************************

From: Anne-Marie Johnson
Sent: Tuesday, August 31, 2010 6:13 PM
To: Ned Vaughn
Cc: Assaf Cohen; Joe d'Angerio
Subject: Meet The Candidates

Hello Ned:

I'm glad we both had the opportunity to speak with Michelle but I believe we have different interpretations of the information she provided.

An email poll will not be the appropriate way to handle this apparently detailed process. Although you use the term, "mixer", the actual language is "Meet The Candidates". There is no description provided regarding the meaning and/or intent of the event. That would have to be discussed and ultimately determined by the division board.

First; A Hollywood Board meeting would have to be called in order to discuss the prospect of holding a "Meet The Candidates" Event. There are no set guidelines for such an event and according to elections procedures, the do's and don'ts for this kind of event is mandated by the division board.

Second; Since only the board can set the policies or appoint a subcommittee to vet and recommend proposed policies, a "Meet The Candidates" item would have to be placed on the agenda.

Third; If a subcommittee is appointed by the board, the subcommittee would have to meet immediately. (as you well know, the board does not do committee work.)

Forth; A second meeting of the Hollywood Board would have to be called in order to hear and thoroughly discuss the recommendations from the subcommittee and staff liaison, ultimately concluding in a vote. The board would also have to approve a proposed budget for this event.

Fifth; Emails and postcards would have to sent to all of our Hollywood division members informing them of the date and time of the event. And all 75 candidates would have to be contacted regarding the event.

Unfortunately this situation has not been dealt with in previous election cycles. Hopefully someone will make a motion during the Oct. Hollywood Board meeting to seat a "Meet The Candidate" subcommittee to take care of all of the particulars in time for the next election cycle. But I have to say, considering that it's the end of August and ballots are to be returned by Sept 22nd, I find it hard to believe that all of the above steps could take place in enough time to satisfy the purpose of the event.

The above is based on my 12 years of board experience and my interpretation of the information provided to us by Michelle. You can obviously disagree and ask Michelle for more guidance, information and her expert opinion.

I respectfully ask you to reconsider our debate invitation. M1st was more than willing to consent to your suggestion. Unfortunately the amount of time it'll take to pull off a board approved "Meet The Candidates" event works against the amount of time there is left in this campaign cycle.

take care,
amj

************************

From: Ned Vaughn
Sent: Wednesday, September 01, 2010 5:41 PM
To: 'Anne-Marie Johnson'
Cc: 'Assaf Cohen'; 'Joe d'Angerio'
Subject: RE: Meet The Candidates

Hi Anne-Marie,

The Hollywood Board can certainly approve a "Meet The Candidates" event without the involvement of a subcommittee. I've already spoken with many board members who are eager to see it happen.

The point is to give members unfettered access to the candidates, not to create a complicated list of "do's and don'ts". A basic mixer-style event won't require any speaker guidelines – members can simply seek out the candidates they wish to talk with and discuss whatever they like. I've been assured there are no legal or procedural impediments so long as all the candidates are invited, and of course they would be.

A simple event like this can easily be outlined and approved with an email poll and the sooner that happens, the sooner members can be notified. I've spoken with nearly half the Hollywood Board and heard nothing but strong support; I'd be surprised if any board member voted against providing Hollywood members such a valuable opportunity to engage their potential leaders. An email poll costs nothing, so why not let the board decide?

Ned

************************

From: Anne-Marie Johnson
Sent: Wednesday, September 01, 2010 6:25 PM
To: Ned Vaughn
Cc: Joe d'Angerio; Assaf Cohen
Subject: Fwd: Meet The Candidates

Hey:

I appreciate the fact that you've "spoken to many board members who are eager to see it happen". But that doesn't necessarily mean that it can happen. I suggest we both have a phone conversation with SAG staff, including Ilyanne, Michelle and Duncan, in order find out exactly what a "Meet The Candidates" event would involve. But let's, for a moment, take your premise that this event can be handled in a simple poll question to the Hollywood Board.

Please take into consideration the following:

And email poll would take at least 2 days at a minimum for an acceptable response period. Not taking into consideration the time it'll take staff, including legal, to draft a poll question.

Labor Day is this weekend, making Friday and Monday lost days for the Guild.

So, for a coherent email question to be drafted and vetted by staff, the earliest an email poll question could be sent to the board would have to be sometime next week. Let's say hypothetically Sept 7th or 8th.

Staff would have to allow at a minimum 2 days for a response from the board.

Now it's Sept 13th. (keeping in mind that we are holding a joint board meeting the weekend of the 11th and 12th). And let's assume the "yes" vote prevails.

As we do with all of our notifications, SAG tries to provide members at least 10-14 days advance notice of a SAG event.

And keep in mind that the Guild is obligated to notify members both by email and postcard. So, let's say, hypothetically, the Guild is able to print and mail over 20K postcards to Hollywood members by Sept 14th. And let's say it takes the post office at a minimum 2 days for the postcards to start arriving at members mailboxes.

Now it's Sept 16th or 17th. Leaving only the 17th, 20th, or 21st for an event. (unless you'd like staff to work during the weekend) By now a good percentage of members have already voted.

The ballots need to be returned by Sept 22nd.

Of course, as I said in my previous email, my assumptions and opinions are just that. I'm only looking at a calendar and using some of my SAG common sense. What would have made better sense is if all of this was worked out a year ago and a "Meet The Candidates" notification could have been placed in the ballot envelops, saving the Hollywood Division thousands of dollars and providing SAG members a reasonable time for notification.

I'll try to set up a phone conference meeting tomorrow morning with Ilyanne, Michelle, and if needed, Duncan, our however we can get, to hash this out. I hope you can be available.

amj

************************

From: Ned Vaughn
Sent: Wednesday, September 01, 2010 6:45 PM
To: 'Anne-Marie Johnson'
Cc: 'Joe d'Angerio'; 'Assaf Cohen'
Subject: RE: Meet The Candidates

I'd be happy to discuss it with staff tomorrow. Other than a brief window from roughly 12:00-12:30, I should be available. It's probably best if we do it earlier; it might allow for a poll to be sent out tomorrow.

Ned

************************

From: Anne Johnson
Sent: Wednesday, September 01, 2010 6:49 PM
To: Michelle Bennett; Ilyanne Kichaven; Duncan Crabtree-Ireland
Cc: Ned Vaughn
Subject: Meet The Candidates

Good evening;

Ned Vaughn has informed me that there is considerable interest from Hollywood Board members to hold a "Meet The Candidates Event" regarding the 2010 Hollywood Board Division Election.

Could we please hold a phone conference meeting tomorrow, preferably in the morning or early afternoon, to discuss the pro's, con's and particulars of such an event.

Please let me know as soon as you all can. Sorry for the late notice.

take care,
amj

************************

From: Anne-Marie Johnson
Sent: Thursday, September 02, 2010 11:19 AM
To: Ned Vaughn
Cc: Ilyanne Kichaven; Michelle Bennett; Duncan Crabtree-Ireland
Subject: Re: Meet The Candidates

Hello Ned;

Considering the circumstances and taking into consideration that you are a member at large running for a board seat, I suggest you discuss your desire for a "Meet The Candidates" event directly with the appropriate SAG staff. Sitting board members can request the type of board actions you are requesting but other than that, a request similar to yours, from a member at large, should be handled in another fashion.

I'll wait to hear back from SAG staff regarding your request and discuss with them the most appropriate way to handle this issue.

take care,
amj

************************

From: Ned Vaughn
Sent: Thursday, September 02, 2010 1:35 PM
To: 'Anne-Marie Johnson'
Cc: 'Ilyanne Kichaven'; 'Michelle Bennett'; 'Duncan Crabtree-Ireland'
Subject: RE: Meet The Candidates

Hi Anne-Marie,

Considering that you are a sitting board member and the person who can request that an email poll be sent to the board, I don't understand the reason for your message. Why are you reversing course on your email to staff last night that we should discuss this together and, presumably, take action as soon as possible? It seems like you don't want the event to happen.

Ned

************************

From: Ned Vaughn
Sent: Friday, September 03, 2010 12:51 PM
To: 'Ilyanne Kichaven'; 'Michelle Bennett'; 'Duncan Crabtree-Ireland'
Cc: 'Anne-Marie Johnson'
Subject: Meet The Candidates event

Hi All,

Anne-Marie has asked that I share the basic outline of the "Meet The Candidates" event she and I have discussed.

Venue: Cagney Room

Format: Basic mixer. No designated speaking times or speaker guidelines. All candidates and members free to attend for entire duration or whatever portion of the event they see fit.

Date: Soonest available, based on approval and notification process – but probably mid week, 9/13-17

Time: 7-9 PM

I believe the most fiscally prudent and timely means of member notification would be:

1. Send an email notice to those Hollywood Division voters with email addresses on file.
2. Place a notice on the SAG website.
3. Issue a press release.

Please feel free to call or email with any questions. I hope you all have a wonderful and relaxing holiday weekend.

Ned

************************

From: Anne-Marie Johnson
Sent: Friday, September 03, 2010 1:31 PM
To: Ilyanne Kichaven; Michelle Bennett; Duncan Crabtree-Ireland
Cc: Ned Vaughn
Subject: Fwd: Meet The Candidates event

Begin forwarded message:

First I'd like to make it clear that Ned and I never discussed the particulars of the "Mixer" he's been requesting. I've made it clear to all involved, especially Ned through several email exchanges, that I am concerned regarding the timing and particulars of an event this late in the campaign process. The information provided below is purely from Ned Vaughn. To suggest otherwise is misleading and an extremely inaccurate.

amj