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WGA leader quits in dispute over eligibility

Riskin had not done enough paid work to maintain her membership
/ Source: The Associated Press

The head of the union representing Hollywood screenwriters resigned Tuesday after an investigator determined she was ineligible to hold office because her guild membership had lapsed.

Victoria Riskin, president of the Writers Guild of America’s Western branch, stepped down and was replaced by union Vice President Charles Holland, who will serve the remainder of Riskin’s two-year term, which runs through 2005.

Stanford law professor William B. Gould IV, hired by the guild to review the matter, had reported to the union’s board Monday that Riskin did not do enough paid writing work to maintain her membership when she was elected to a second term in September.

The investigation began after a complaint was filed by guild member Ronald Parker, a supporter of Eric Hughes, the candidate Riskin defeated in the election.

“I believe what Victoria Riskin did she did on a good faith understanding of guild procedures,” Holland said.

Riskin’s resignation comes at a bad time for the guild, which is gearing up for contract negotiations with Hollywood studios. The current contract expires May 2, and union and studio representatives are at odds over such issues as health care and revenues from the boom in DVD sales.

“My election as president of the Writers Guild is a trust I hold sacred,” said Riskin, the daughter of actress Fay Wray and screenwriter Robert Riskin, an Academy Award winner for Frank Capra’s “It Happened One Night.” “However, I know we cannot proceed into negotiations with these charges hanging over us.”

The Writers Guild trouble comes two years after an election dispute at the Screen Actors Guild, where Melissa Gilbert’s victory as president over Valerie Harper was invalidated because of voting irregularities. Gilbert easily beat Harper in a rematch.