A legal effort by the president of the Screen Actors Guild to overturn his own board's decision to fire SAG's executive director and chief negotiator was denied Thursday by a judge, who said he found no violation of the union's bylaws.
SAG President Alan Rosenberg and First Vice-President Anne-Marie Johnson filed the lawsuit, seeking to reinstate ousted chief negotiator and Executive Director Doug Allen and reconstitute the since-disbanded negotiating committee.
The agreement covering motion picture and television production expired June 30. Negotiations deadlocked when SAG demanded better terms than other entertainment industry unions received, and actors were split over the idea of authorizing a strike during an economic downturn.
SAG members elected more moderate board members, who voted to fire Allen and disband the negotiating committee in hopes of reaching an agreement.
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Rosenberg and Johnson claimed that Allen's ouster violated California's corporate code and should be nullified.
Eric George, an attorney for Rosenberg, argued that the board used a backdoor method to get around a SAG rule that required a two-thirds vote to fire the head negotiator by claiming it had abolished the entire committee when in reality it just underwent a change in membership.
But SAG lawyers maintained the entire negotiating committee was replaced, not just Allen, and that by removing the entire committee and replacing it with a task force with different authority, the move did not require a two-thirds vote of the board members but only a simple majority.
Los Angeles Superior Court Judge James C. Chalfant agreed.
"I believe they were permitted to do exactly what they did," he said.
Allen, sitting in the courtroom, shook his head and appeared glum as he listened to the judge, and George said he will appeal the judge's decision.
SAG issued a statement saying it's time to move on.
"I'm pleased that we can put this matter behind us and dedicate our complete focus to the needs of Screen Actors Guild members, said SAG Interim Executive Director David White. "There's a lot of work ahead of us."
The SAG national board of directors will meet Saturday with the other major actors' union, the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists, to discuss upcoming commercial contract negotiations.
Actors have been split over a proposed strike vote. Supporters say it is crucial to gain leverage in negotiations, but opponents have said it is unlikely the vote would receive the required 75 percent yes vote, thus weakening the guild's hand in bargaining.