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Cinematographers Guild Says Its Former Treasurer Took Union Funds

Deadline logo Deadline 1/30/2017 David Robb
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EXCLUSIVE: The former secretary-treasurer of the Cinematographers Guild has been fined, kicked off the executive board and ordered to return $3,300 to the guild after a union trial board found that he absconded with union funds and equipment.

Alan Gitlin, who was defeated in his bid for re-election last year, was accused of making off with computer equipment and keeping credit card points for himself that should have been turned over to the guild after he left office. Gitlin was elected to the guild’s national executive board last year, but the union said that “as a result of the findings, the members has been removed from the board.”

In an email to the guild’s members last week, Steven Poster, the its longtime president – and Gitlin’s running mate in last year’s election – said the local’s former chief financial officer was put on trial after he refused to repay the guild for the equipment and credit card points. (Read his full email below.)

“You will undoubtedly hear about disciplinary action taken against our former secretary-treasurer Alan Gitlin,” Poster told the members Thursday. “When Alan left office, he was allowed to purchase from the guild a laptop and notebook assigned to the secretary-treasurer’s office. He failed to pay for that equipment. He was also in possession of some credit card points that should have been returned, in some form, to the union. He failed to do so or to make the union whole for their value. The total value of both was approximately $3,300.

“Our staff demanded that Alan pay for the equipment and points,” Poster continued, “and when he didn’t, brought Alan’s conduct to the attention of guild officers. The board meted out harsh punishment against a longtime union officer for his transgressions. I, along with secretary treasurer [Edward] Avila, signed the charges despite my many years of working closely with Alan. In other words, the system worked exactly as it should have.”

Gitlin could not be reached for comment.

Poster and Gitlin had been political allies, with each supporting the other in their re-election bids last April. In his email, Poster told the members of the guild – Local 600 of IATSE – that he was alerting them to Gitlin’s misappropriation of union funds “not because I take any pleasure in the situation, but to assure you that your union’s officers and staff work hard to protect the assets of your union and make sure your dues are spent wisely.”

Addressing internal riffs within the local, he added: “After the business of the trial was concluded, we returned, as we have over the last year, to the business of moving the union forward. We cannot allow ourselves to be distracted by an internal dispute that does not serve any purpose except to tear down our reputation with the other IA locals, the International and our members. If others want to make the actions of one individual their ‘smoking gun,’ so be it.”

Running for re-election last year, Gitlin pointed to his many guild accomplishments over the preceding three years, which he said including oversight of the guild’s $13 million investment account; overseeing the operation and development of the guild’s information technology system; overseeing the construction of three new offices in the guild’s headquarters in Los Angeles; negotiating a lease for the guild’s new office in Atlanta, and negotiating a lease for additional office space in New York.

“As a result of this situation, the guild has reviewed and updated its existing financial oversight practices to ensure that a situation like this does not occur again in the future,” the union said in a statement.”

In 2015, Gitlin brought union charges against Haskell Wexler, accusing the guild’s most famous member of having posted the proceedings of a union membership meeting on an unlisted YouTube account, but Wexler died before the trial board could be convened.

Here is Poster’s email to Cinematographers Guild members:

Over this past weekend, while millions of women marched throughout America, your National Executive Board met in Hollywood. The two-day session was by turns difficult and productive. That is to be expected. Making important decisions sometimes requires difficult debate. The question for us is how we come back together after that debate to do the work of the members.

You will undoubtedly hear about disciplinary action taken against our former Secretary-Treasurer Alan Gitlin. When Alan left office, he was allowed to purchase from the Guild a laptop and notebook assigned to the Secretary-Treasurer’s office. He failed to pay for that equipment. He was also in possession of some credit card points that should have been returned, in some form, to the union. He failed to do so or to make the union whole for their value. The total value of both was approximately $3,300.

I provide this information not because I take any pleasure in the situation, but to assure you that your union’s officers and staff work hard to protect the assets of your union and make sure your dues are spent wisely. Our staff demanded that Alan pay for the equipment and points, and when he didn’t brought Alan’s conduct to the attention of Guild officers. The Board meted out harsh punishment against a long-time union officer for his transgressions. I, along with Secretary Treasurer Avila, signed the charges despite my many years of working closely with Alan. In other words, the system worked exactly as it should have.

After the business of the trial was concluded we returned, as we have over the last year, to the business of moving the union forward. We cannot allow ourselves to be distracted by an internal dispute that does not serve any purpose except to tear down our reputation with the other IA Locals, the International and our members. If others want to make the actions of one individual their “smoking gun” so be it. The rest of us will be preparing for negotiations in 2018, working with our fellow locals to identify and mutually support shared issues, asking our members what they want to see us focus on in bargaining, continuing to use small working groups to tackle big problems and collaborating – elected leaders and staff – to advance the principles that really matter – unity, safety, diversity and economic opportunity. That’s what the marches were about and that is what the union is about.

Steven Poster, ASC

National President

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