The Cinematographers Guild, IATSE Local 600, has filed a lawsuit against former national secretary-treasurer Alan Gitlin, claiming he refused to return $3,301 in union funds and equipment he allegedly absconded with after he lost his bid for re-election last year. Kicked off the national executive board after he bounced two checks to cover the debt, the suit also wants the court to order him to pay the $7,500 fine the union levied against him.
The lawsuit (read it here), filed in Los Angeles Superior Court, claims that when Gitlin left office last June, he converted some 460,277 American Express rewards points — valued at $2,301 — accumulated on the guild’s card that had been provided to him for official business. The suit also claims he failed to reimburse the guild for a laptop and notebook – valued at $1,000 – that had been assigned to the secretary-treasurer’s office. The lawsuit says he verbally agreed to reimburse the guild for the equipment and points, but notes that two personal checks he wrote to cover the $3,301 bounced.
Last November, the guild’s president, Steven Poster, and the guild’s national secretary-treasurer, Edward Avila – who had defeated Gitlin in his bid for re-election – brought internal union charges against him for refusing to reimburse the guild for the equipment and points. The guild’s national executive board convened a disciplinary hearing on January 21, and found him guilty of violating the constitution and bylaws of the guild and its parent union, the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees. He was then ordered to pay the guild $3,301, was fined $7,500, and was kicked off the board.
“By failing to make the payments required by the national executive board’s decision,” the suit states, “Gitlin has breached his agreement to accept and abide by the constitution and bylaws of the guild and failed to abide by the decision of the national executive board, a lawful tribunal of the guild.”
Gitlin, who could not be reached for comment, was no stranger to the guild’s disciplinary process. In June 2015, he brought charges against Haskell Wexler, the two-time Oscar-winning cinematographer who’d been a member of the union for more than 60 years, accusing him of posting the proceedings of a guild membership meeting on an unlisted YouTube account. Wexler died six months later, at age 93, before the trial board could be convened.