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Hudgins leaving Texas Film Commission amid allegations

Agency head appointed by governor says sexual harassment claims 'without foundation.'

Charles Ealy
Bob Hudgins cites other factors in resignation.

Bob Hudgins, director of the Texas Film Commission, is resigning his position at the governor's office on Nov. 30 amid an ongoing investigation of sexual harassment claims against him.

Hudgins, who said the allegations were "incredibly scurrilous and without foundation," confirmed his departure and the internal investigation during a telephone call Thursday, several weeks after the American-Statesman requested all personnel records related to the case from the governor's office.

As of Thursday, the governor's office, citing privacy issues, had not released any of the documents and had referred the matter to the state attorney general.

"I can't talk about personnel matters, period," said Katherine Cesinger, a spokeswoman for Gov. Rick Perry.

Hudgins said he could not discuss the investigation, which he said he requested after "this was laid out to me. I \u2026 rattled off a list of people who could give information on the accusations."

"There were much more serious allegations made other than sexual allegations," he said, but he would not elaborate. "I'm pretty upset about it, to be honest."

Hudgins also said that other factors, primarily related to family, were involved in his decision to leave the commission.

"It's really a challenging job," he told the Statesman in mid-October. "I've had health issues related to stress. Last year, I missed my daughter's birthday. I was between Houston and Fort Worth (on film commission business). I wasn't there, and she'll be 6 this year. I don't want to miss her birthday again."

Hudgins' annual salary is $85,272, according to a Texas Tribune database.

On Oct. 13, the Statesman made a request under the Texas Public Information Act to see Hudgins' personnel file, "including but not limited to performance reviews, any disciplinary actions or investigations and resignation letter, if submitted."

On Oct. 27, Kate Fite, assistant general counsel in Perry's office, sent a letter to Attorney General Greg Abbott asking for a review of the request, asserting that the "responsive information is excepted from disclosure" on the grounds that the documents "may implicate a third party's privacy interest."

On Tuesday in response to a telephone query, Fite left a message saying that her office had forwarded the Statesman's request for any information not claimed as exempted to the third party and the third party's counsel and that she was waiting to hear back.

Hudgins' resignation comes at a pivotal time for the Texas commission and film industry.

In the past year, film and television production has picked up, mainly because of the passage of incentives in 2007 and the bolstering of those incentives by the Legislature in 2009, for a total of $62 million.

Two major movies — Richard Linklater's "Bernie" and Robert Rodriguez's "Spy Kids 4" — are filming in the Austin area this week.

But early state budget projections for next year include a shortfall as high as $21 billion. In September, the governor's office proposed $9 million in cuts in film and TV incentives for the 2011 state budget, which will be debated at the legislative session that starts in January.

The resignation also comes before any final decision has been made on whether to approve incentives for Rodriguez's recent movie "Machete," which conservative bloggers and radio talk-show hosts have said promotes violent Hispanic retaliation against U.S. immigration policies.

Hudgins said in mid-October that the paperwork for "Machete" incentives had not yet been filed by Rodriguez's Troublemaker Studios. So the final ruling could be weeks away, or even longer, given Hudgins' resignation.

Hudgins came to the commission in 2005, a few months after the retirement of Tom Copeland, and helped oversee the 2007 passage of film incentives. In 2009, he led the successful effort to strengthen those incentives, but with a legislator-crafted provision that taxpayer money could not be used to fund productions that have questionable content or cast Texas in a "negative light."

He drew fire later in 2009 when he told the producers of the upcoming feature "Waco" that they need not make their movie in Texas because of what he said was a historically inaccurate portrayal of the fatal Branch Davidian siege in 1993. Opponents of the decision, which Hudgins said he made alone, contended that the commission was keeping jobs from the Texas film industry.

Of the allegations against him, Hudgins said Thursday: "None of this impacts the operation of the office, per se. And it definitely doesn't involve anyone above me. Allegations were made, and those have to be addressed and dealt with responsibly."

A replacement for Hudgins has not been announced.; 445-3931

Additional material from staff writers Jason Embry and Patrick Beach.