UPDATE: Leonard Klady Expelled From LAFCA – Los Angeles Film Critics Association

Len Klady 600x383

By ROBERT W. WELKOS

What is it about film critics these days?

First, the New York Film Critics Circle ousts long-time film reviewer Armond White after he reportedly heckled Steve McQueen, the director of “12 Years a Slave,” at an awards dinner earlier this year. White denied the heckling but the story went viral.

Now, on the opposite coast, Leonard Klady, a box office analyst for the website Movie City News, has been expelled from the Los Angeles Film Critics Association after an attempt to get sponsors for the group’s annual awards dinner triggered a lawsuit.

The Klady story broke earlier this week when Deadline.com reported that Klady was given the boot “over an unauthorized agreement he’d made on behalf of LAFCA to third party consultant Sheri Wish, who was contracted for $3000 to bring in sponsorships for LAFCA’s annual award dinner last January. Wish failed to deliver any sponsorships at all.”

Deadline wrote that when LAFCA rejected Wish’s request to be paid, she sued.

Klady told Deadline that there was “no malfeasance” and that he was working “in my role as the chairman of the awards committee and the person who I engaged was recommended by a reputable person in the industry.”

The case was settled out of court with Wish receiving $1000 from the film critics’ group and $1000 from Klady.

HollywoodNews contacted the vendor but she declined to be interviewed. Klady could not be immediately reached for comment by HollywoodNews.

But Stephen Farber, LAFCA’s president and a film critic for the Hollywood Reporter, told HollywoodNews on Friday that his group voted to expel Klady because “he had caused the organization to be sued. He took action on his own with this woman that was not really something that was authorized by the group. He didn’t tell (LAFCA’s officers) or anybody else that he had assigned this contract.”

On Thursday, Klady had told Deadline he had been blindsided by his expulsion. He explained: “It was a misunderstanding as a result of a contract for service. When the service was not provided, rather than drag it through the court system, we settled it. I offered to settle the entire thing myself and I was told they didn’t want to do that. I paid $1000 and the organization paid $1000.” Klady also told Deadline that he was never made aware of the closed-door meeting where the vote over his expulsion was held, nor given a chance to defend his membership.

“That’s not true,” Farber told HollywoodNews.

Farber said Klady did attend a March 6 meeting of LAFCA’s executive board and the membership committee that was held at the Santa Monica home of critic Lael Loewenstein, where he answered their questions and then left.

His answers, Farber recalled, were “not satisfactory to the group at that time.”

“They asked him a lot of questions about how this happened? They also asked him—at that point, we didn’t know what would be happening to the court case—would he pay for any damages? At that point, he said, no, he would not. He expected the group would pay things. He later changed his mind.”

Farber said that after Klady left the meeting, the officers and committee members held a “lengthy discussion” about possible disciplinary action.

“There were different opinions expressed,” he recalled, “but a large majority wanted to expel him….I sent him a letter to tell him that….Some people felt he should just be suspended for a time rather than expelled. Everybody felt some action should be taken.”

Farber said he didn’t know the vendor involved at the time. “I’m not quite sure how he found her. He said that she was recommended to him. And he never actually met her. He just emailed and talked to her on the phone….He was going to pay her $3000 for finding sponsors for our dinner.”

The expulsion letter, dated March 10, read:
“Thank you for coming to the meeting on Thursday. As you could tell from the questions, there were a lot of concerns about your actions with regard to the Sheri Wish contract and lawsuit, and I am sorry to tell you that the group voted to expel you from LAFCA because of these actions. We all appreciate your many contributions to the awards dinner over the years, but this is a separate and troubling issue.

“According to our bylaws, Section 3, subsection iv, membership can be terminated when ‘The determination by the board of directors or a committee designated to make such determination that the member has failed in a material and serious degree to observe the rules of conduct of the Corporation, or has engaged in conduct materially and seriously prejudicial to the interest of the corporation.’ The group felt that last provision was applicable in this case.

“According to the bylaws, if you object to this expulsion, you have an opportunity to present your case in writing to the officers and the membership committee. If you choose to present a written defense, you should send this by March 17, at which point we will review and make a final decision. You also have the opportunity to re-apply for membership at a later date.”

Farber noted in a subsequent email to HollywoodNews that the letter was sent via messenger on March 10 and that Klady received it that day. “He did send a response, which I forwarded to all the members who were at the March 6 meeting. All affirmed their votes.”

The meeting Klady did not attend, Farber pointed out, was a general membership meeting held on March 22. Farber said Klady was not invited since he had already been expelled.

Farber said 30 of the group’s 55 members attended this March 22 meeting and that a majority of them upheld the earlier disciplinary action.

Committing $3000 of LAFCA’s funds is sizable if, for no other reason, that the group is far from rich.
As a nonprofit organization, LAFCA is required to file annual Form 990 documents with the IRS in order to qualify for tax-exempt status.

Those files show that in fiscal 2012, the group listed total revenues of only $30,600 and total expenses of $39,498 for a deficit of $8,898. LAFCA listed its net assets at $7,138. The forms show that LAFCA does not pay salaries or give out grants.

During the previous fiscal year, LAFCA reported $42,585 in total revenues and $41,815 in total expenses. It listed its net worth as $15,266.

And, in fiscal 2010, the group reported $44,150 in total revenue and $42,174 in total expenses. Net assets were listed as $63,818.

Farber, who has been a member of LAFCA off and on since 1978 and has been president for the past two years, said he is not aware of the reasons why the revenues rise and dip from year to year but said it likely has to do with the costs of the awards dinner.

LAFCA was founded in 1975 and is comprised of L.A.-based professional film critics working in the Los Angeles print and electronic media. The members vote each December on the year’s Achievement Awards, “honoring screen excellence on both sides of the camera.” Winners receive plaques of recognition at the group’s annual ceremony, held in mid-January.

This year’s awards honored “Gravity” and “Her” as best picture; Alphso Cuarón (“Gravity”) as best director, with Spike Jonze (“Her”) as runner-up; Bruce Dern (“Nebraska”) as best actor; Cate Blanchett (“Blue Jasmine”) and Adèle Exarchopoulous (“Blue is the Warmest Color”) tied for best actress; James Franco (“Spring Breakers”) and Jared Leto (“Dallas Buyers Club”) tied for best supporting actor; and, Lupita Nyong’o (“12 Years a Slave”) won best supporting actress.

This year’s awards dinner, which usually attracts about 250 people, was held at the InterContinental Hotel in Century City.

In the group’s early years, Farber noted, the critics would host an annual awards luncheon, but that has given way to dinners, which are more expensive.

Farber said the studios whose films are being feted usually foot the bill for tables at the dinner. Still, he conceded, it’s never easy finding sponsors.

Farber said that Klady’s job as chairman of the awards committee was to organize the dinner. In recent years, the dinners have included audio-visual displays as well as musical performances tied to a film being honored. These were nice touches, Farber said, “but they added to the expense.”

He said that going forward, LAFCA will have to decide whether holding an awards dinner is the right approach or whether they should go back to holding awards luncheons instead.

About Robert W. Welkos

Executive Editor: Robert W. Welkos is an award-winning journalist who covered the entertainment industry for 15 years as a staff writer for the Los Angeles Times. During this span, he wrote extensively about the movie industry from turmoil in the executive suites, the Academy Awards and Golden Globes, and box office hits and bombs to visits to movie sets as well as profiles of top stars and A-list directors, cutting edge features on the newest indie films and visits to famous film festivals like Sundance and Cannes. Prior to entertainment, Welkos worked as a reporter and assistant city editor in The Times’ Metro section where he undertook major investigations for the paper as well as covering breaking news and writing in-depth features. Before joining The Times, he worked for the Associated Press in Reno, Nevada, and City News Service in Los Angeles.

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