Former San Francisco Film Office employee alleges retaliation for whistle-blowing 

click to enlarge Christine Munday was terminated from the San Francisco Film Commission after raising questions about then-commissioner Debbie Brubaker's involvement in the film permitting process for the television series “Alcatraz,” which Brubaker was working on. Munday believes it was part of the reason for her termination. - GETTY IMAGES FILE PHOTO
  • Getty Images File Photo
  • Christine Munday was terminated from the San Francisco Film Commission after raising questions about then-commissioner Debbie Brubaker's involvement in the film permitting process for the television series “Alcatraz,” which Brubaker was working on. Munday believes it was part of the reason for her termination.

The behind-the-scenes Film Commission drama has intensified, with one employee saying she was fired last year for speaking out against inappropriate conduct.

Last May, Christine Munday was hand-delivered a termination notice from her boss, Susannah Robbins, executive director of the Film Office that’s overseen by the commission. Munday had been a permit issuer for the office for four years.

“I feel like it was retaliation for sure,” Munday said.

The termination, Munday said, came soon after she raised concerns with Robbins that Commissioner Debbie Brubaker, a longtime film producer, was getting too involved in the permitting process for the television series “Alcatraz,” which Brubaker was working on.

“I felt like I was being pressured to approve something,” Munday said.

Brubaker, who resigned from the commission earlier this month, had discussed permit details with her on about five different occasions, including handing her a parking diagram related to a permit during a commission meeting, Munday said.

Robbins did send an email to Brubaker last year about how “it’s awkward, with you being a Commissioner, and getting this involved in the permits. I think it is putting Christine [Munday] in an awkward place.”

But Munday said Robbins ultimately “made it very clear that she didn’t agree with me that there was anything inappropriate going on.”

“We went back and forth; I told her I disagreed with her and had to take it to the next level,” Munday said.

Both Brubaker and Robbins have denied any wrongdoing. Robbins said she could not discuss Munday’s allegations.

“Although the Film Commission cannot comment on private personnel matters, we make all employment decisions in accordance with city rules and procedures,” Robbins said in an emailed statement. “The Film Commission is dedicated to ensuring the transparency and integrity of the film permit process and to promoting San Francisco as a film destination.”

Brubaker resigned March 1 amid questions about her involvement in Film Office operations after a sunshine complaint, filed by a production unit manager named Clifford Roseman, prompted the release last month of thousands of emails exchanged between Brubaker and Robbins.

They contain conversations about hiring recommendations, permitting for “Alcatraz,” possibly cutting Southern California Teamsters 399 out of local filming, and qualifying a Woody Allen movie Brubaker was working on for The City’s tax break program.

“The Film Office repeatedly encouraged [Brubaker] to get involved in ways that were not appropriate,” Munday said.

Meanwhile, the Mayor’s Office on Friday expressed support for the commission and Robbins.

“The mayor is confident that the Film Commission is following the laws governing the body and continuing to promote San Francisco as a destination for film,” spokesman Francis Tsang said. “Susannah has worked hard to bring more productions to The City, to help change the perception of the Film Office, and made it easier to attract filming to San Francisco.”

jsabatini@sfexaminer.com

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