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HomeNewsLocal 44 Settles with Cunningham

Local 44 Settles with Cunningham

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A settlement was reached between the IATSE Local 44 board and Ronnie Cunningham, the union’s longtime business agent, canceling an impeachment trial of Cunningham on a raft of allegations of misconduct that had been leveled against him and was set for May 7 and 8.

The executive board of the Affiliated Property Craftspersons Union voted 10 to 5 to cut a deal with Cunningham to put the matter behind them rather than go ahead with a pending proceeding that could have cost the guild hundreds of thousands of dollars to conduct.

“The Executive Board and Brother Cunningham announce that all issues based on the internal union charges have been resolved and settled,” according to a statement on the Local 44 website. In fact, the only resolution reached on the charges that Cunningham allegedly misappropriated union funds and violated its constitution, was to reach an accommodation to drop the matter “in the best interest of Local 44.”

Under the agreement Cunningham, who in March had been temporarily ousted as business agent—the top executive post at Local 44—when the charges were first leveled, will now voluntarily give up his job but will continue to be a member in good standing of Local 44.

“I am proud of my record as business agent at Local 44 and I look forward to many more years as a member,” Cunningham declared as part of the statement.Cunningham, who was serving his fifth term as business agent, did not admit to any wrongdoing and will receive a financial settlement of around $180,000, based on what he would have been paid had he served his full term into 2007.

But he will no longer be eligible to be a candidate for office or take part in future elections of the union which, besides prop masters, represents set decorators, special-effects workers, construction coordinators and workers dealing with greens and miniatures.

A number of issues still remain to be resolved and a membership meeting was set for May 17.  Foremost is the issue of replacing Cunningham. For now, Ed Brown is serving as “temporary interim business agent.” The board must decide whether to schedule a special election or wait until next spring when the next round of officer elections is set to take place.

The board must also decide how to deal with unresolved countercharges leveled against Cunningham’s main accusers, Craig Raiche and Dan Graham, as well as Local 44 secretary-treasurer Elliot Jennings. “The union would have been better served had we been able to bring all the evidence out and put it all on the table for everybody to see,” Local 44 president Erik Nelson told Below the Line. “But when it looked like it could become so outrageously expensive, the board decided it wasn’t practical.” Costs for a two-day trial over one weekend were estimated at around $200,000. And there were concerns the matter could stretch out over a number of weekends.

Cunningham had asked for and received approval to be tried by “a jury of his peers.” The union has over 5,600 members but there was no way of knowing how many would attend a trial. Prior to cancellation, Local 44 had rented out a local soundstage for the May 7–8 proceeding, with seating for 2,100.“The Ronnie Cunningham episode is hopefully now history,” said Nelson. “We can now move forward and deal with issues like jobs that can make a real difference to our members.”

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