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Film Commission Under Fire for Whistleblower Termination

A Film Commission worker in San Francisco, California, may seek legal recourse after she was wrongfully terminated. The woman, who was a permit issuer for the government group, said she was discriminated against as a whistleblower; she had reported misdeeds within her department, which she claims ultimately led to her employment termination.

The woman's claims come on the heels of a massive scandal that led to the resignation of at least one film commissioner within the department. That commissioner was the subject of the woman's complaints, according to media reports. The woman had reported that the commissioner was becoming too involved in the permitting process for a popular television series that was being filmed locally.

When the woman reported the inappropriate actions, her boss essentially dismissed her claims and allowed the commissioner to continue meddling in permit affairs. It should be noted that commissioners could demonstrate a conflict of interest by questioning permitting activities related to films. In addition, the commissioner was accused of trying to force the Southern California Teamsters 399 out of the local filming project while helping secure special tax breaks for an upcoming Woody Allen film. It is clear that the woman was misusing her power for personal gain, according to news reports.

Documents show that the wrongfully terminated woman was fired last May, shortly after she submitted complaints to her supervisors about the misdeeds. She said she experienced pressure to approve inappropriate permits in connection with the commissioner's unethical practices. The woman lost her job simply because she spoke out against misappropriation of government funds.

The woman could seek financial restitution from the Film Commission in connection with the wrongful termination and whistleblower case. Whistleblowers enjoy special protection in California, where laws are designed to encourage the reporting of unethical practices. The woman could receive financial compensation for loss of income and benefits, among other claims. She could also recover damages for emotional distress and legal fees related to the case.

Source: The Examiner, "Former San Francisco Film Office employee alleges retaliation for whistle-blowing," Joshua Sabatini, March 17, 2013

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