Ouster of Film Office director comes with a price 

The Film Commission, which has gotten a lot of attention lately -- and not for film activity -- is holding a special meeting Feb. 9 to vote on whether to authorize the president of the commission to sign off on a severance deal for recently ousted Executive Director Stefanie Coyote.

It appears Coyote, whose last day on the job was reportedly Jan. 31, stands to receive a severance payment under The City’s Municipal Executives’ Association labor union contract.

The meeting notice says that copies of the agreement with Coyote will be released at the meeting.

A provision in the MEA labor contract states: “The City agrees that when involuntarily removing or releasing from employment a represented employee, the employee shall also receive one week’s severance pay for each full year worked, up to a maximum of 26 weeks, in exchange for a release signed by the employee.”

But it doesn’t seem as straightforward as all that. Another provision states: “Payment of severance is dependent upon approval by the Appointing Officer, Controller and the Human Resources Director” and that approval is “based on a good faith consideration of whether the employee's removal or release was involuntary, was initiated by the Appointing Authority, and was in the best interests of the City.”

Mayor Gavin Newsom had appointed Coyote as executive director of the Film Commission back in 2004 when he announced big plans to revive the movie making magic in San Francisco.

Then, rather abruptly by many accounts, Newsom, through a mayoral staffer, told Coyote to resign, although Coyote didn’t legally have to. Technically, either the commission needed to vote her out or she would have to voluntarily quit. However, she apparently decided to give in, despite the commission showing a lot of support for her and expressing a lot of confusion about Newsom’s decision.

Newsom never publicly gave the decision as second thought.

Newsom’s spokesman said last Friday that the commission has begun a search for another executive director. In the meantime the commission will work with the staffers in the Film Office and the Mayor’s Office of Economic and Workforce Development to attract film production to San Francisco.

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A daily newspaper covering San Francisco, San Mateo County and serving Alameda, Marin and Santa Clara counties.
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