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President of Camera Operators Union Ousted

July 11, 2006|Richard Verrier | Times Staff Writer

The president of a union representing cinematographers and camera operators was removed Sunday amid allegations that he overstepped his authority.

In a brief statement, the executive board of Local 600 of the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees said President Gary Dunham was ousted after a two-day trial. The trial was conducted by the board.

"The charges all centered around [Dunham] exceeding the limits of authority of his office," said Tom Weston, interim union president.

The union said it would convene a meeting within 30 days to elect a new president to serve out Dunham's term, which ends in June. Dunham, who was elected in 2004 on a pledge to reform the union, was fined about $4,500.

"It was an absolute travesty," he said. "I'm going to fight this tooth and nail."

The development deepened divisions within the 5,700-member national union. Dunham's supporters called the charges spurious and said he wasn't given a fair trial.

"To my view it was an incredible miscarriage of justice," said Kristin Glover, a board member. "It was very much a kangaroo court."

Weston countered that the "trial was handled as fairly as it could have been."

Dunham had several clashes with International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees President Tom Short, most recently when the local's leadership took the extraordinary step of rejecting a new contract. The new agreement had caused an uproar because of a seemingly arcane revision that would have allowed directors of photography to operate cameras on feature films and episodic TV shows. Camera operators saw it as a threat to their livelihood.

Dunham was accused by one union member of allowing an inflammatory letter opposing the union contract to be posted on the local's website in February.

Dunham also was accused of breaching his fiduciary duty by allowing a controversial computer services contract with the Motion Picture Industry Pension & Health Plan to be canceled. Dunham said he acted within his authority and called the charges "ludicrous."

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