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Film Commission director allowed to stay on job despite harassment findings

Governor's office, Hudgins attorney disagree over reasons for extension

Charles Ealy

Gov. Rick Perry's outgoing director of the Texas Film Commission has been allowed to stay on the job despite being disciplined for sexual harassment in 2009 and after a subsequent investigation found similar behavior again this year.

The latest investigation of Bob Hudgins also raised new concerns about gender discrimination in hiring practices.

Hudgins, an employee of the governor's office, has denied any sexual harassment or discrimination charges. He submitted his resignation Sept. 1, effective Sept. 30, but his bosses asked him to stay on, said Hudgins' lawyer, John Michael Measells . Hudgins' new resignation date is Nov. 30.

"They wanted him to stay through Rick Perry's election," said Measells, who added that the governor's office has instructed Hudgins not to speak to reporters until he has left office. Perry was re-elected Nov. 2.

However, Lucy Nashed, a spokeswoman for Perry, said in an e-mail that Hudgins asked for — and was granted — an extension to allow him to complete tasks such as improving the process for reviewing applications for economic development incentives for movie productions in Texas.

"The allegations and concerns raised regarding Mr. Hudgins were quickly and appropriately investigated, disciplinary actions were taken, and he resigned his position in the film office," Nashed said.

A governor's office investigation showed that Hudgins sexually harassed a female subordinate repeatedly between 2005 and 2009, according to a May 2009 memo that the American-Statesman obtained under Texas open records laws.

The woman told human resources officials that Hudgins kissed her on the cheek on several occasions and "makes physical contact with her on an ongoing basis by touching and rubbing her shoulders, neck, arms and back in an affectionate manner," according to the 2009 memo. Hudgins, who earns $85,000 a year, was placed on probation for six months.

This year, an investigation by the governor's office found that he had kissed a different female subordinate on the cheek on one occasion, and it raised new concerns about discriminatory hiring and pay practices. The review also found that interviews with commission staff indicated "severe deficiencies in managerial leadership" by Hudgins, according to an August 2010 memo.

Measells said the allegations were submitted by "a couple of disgruntled women." The woman who complained in 2009 had been wanting a raise, and the one whose allegations prompted the 2010 investigation had recently been reprimanded by Hudgins for failing to complete basic job tasks, Measells said.

In addition, greeting with a kiss is common in the film industry, Measells said.

"Nobody in the film office had indicated that this sort of greeting was in any way offensive," Measells said. "It was not an inappropriate sexual advance."

The women's names were redacted from the versions of the memos released by the governor's office.

Hudgins has said he resigned to spend more time with family.

Hudgins' resignation comes at a crucial time for the state's 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. Hudgins has been widely praised for helping get the incentives through the Legislature and luring more projects to the state.

But early state budget projections for next year include a shortfall as high as $24 billion, and cuts to film and TV incentives will be debated at the upcoming legislative session, which starts in January.

"We would not have the incentives we have if Bob Hudgins was not our fearless leader," said Austinite Elizabeth Avellan, producer of the "Spy Kids" movies, "Machete" and "From Dusk Till Dawn." Measells suggested that Avellan talk to the American-Statesman.

Avellan added: "I've never in my life seen Bob Hudgins in any way, shape or form be inappropriate."

As part of the 2009 investigation, the female subordinate told human resources workers that she did not like Hudgins' physical contact but that she did not ask him to stop because he was her supervisor.

Hudgins acknowledged that he hugged and kissed a subordinate on the cheek, said the 2009 memo from human resources team leader Edna Jackson to Kathy Walt, the governor's deputy chief of staff.

"He stated that the behavior was not meant to be harassing but was in response to above average work performance by the employee," the memo said.

But the memo concluded that "the behavior presented in this case qualifies as sexual harassment. A repeated pattern of unprofessional conduct resulted in a work environment that offended and intimidated the complainant.

"Although affectionate behavior may be common within the film industry, it is not an appropriate gesture for acknowledging good performance in the workplace, especially with a supervisor/subordinate relationship," the memo continued.

When Hudgins was placed on probation, he was notified that he must "refrain from touching, rubbing, hugging, patting, kissing or having any other inappropriate physical contact" with people he comes in contact with through work, according to a disciplinary document provided to the American-Statesman by Measells.

In 2010, human resources officials looked into several additional allegations, including a female staffer's claim that Hudgins told her that men expect to be paid more than women, according to a memo from Jackson to Perry chief of staff Ray Sullivan.

An internal review of Hudgins' hiring practices raised concerns about his paying men more than women to do the same job and the fact that most of the staffers he hired were women. He has hired four men and 13 women, the 2010 memo said.

Measells said the analysis is inaccurate and that after Nov. 30, Hudgins could explain why.

Human resources officials also investigated a complaint that while in Los Angeles on business, Hudgins leaned forward from the back seat of a rental car and kissed a subordinate on the cheek. The investigation concluded that it was highly likely that is what happened, the 2010 memo said.

Measells questioned the integrity of the investigations, pointing out that the memos said that certain potential witnesses were not interviewed.

Nashed of Perry's office said the "investigations were thorough and appropriate, and focused on office behavior and office personnel."

The memo said potential solutions included demoting Hudgins or reducing his travel because "the majority of the claims of inappropriate activity by Mr. Hudgins appear to occur while on business travel." In addition, the document said, cutting back on travel "should provide Mr. Hudgins with additional time to focus on management."

Nashed said Hudgins resigned before any action was taken as a result of the review.

Measells said Hudgins' management practices are sound and that all the allegations were "designed to harm Bob's reputation."

Hudgins timeline

April 29, 2009: Governor's human resources office receives anonymous call from woman who says her friend is a female Film Commission employee whose supervisor makes the employee feel uncomfortable.

May 11, 2009: Investigation concludes that Hudgins' behavior — including repeatedly kissing a subordinate on the cheek — qualifies as sexual harassment. Hudgins is placed on six-month probation.

July 2, 2009: Hudgins attends a sexual harassment training session with the Texas Workforce Commission's Civil Rights Division.

July 22, 2010: Governor's human resources office receives new allegations about Hudgins.

Aug. 25, 2010: Investigation corroborates one allegation and finds that the other is highly likely to have occurred. Two other allegations (unprofessional conduct and misuse of state resources) are not corroborated.

Sept. 1, 2010: Hudgins submits resignation, effective Sept. 30, but he ends up staying longer.

Nov. 30, 2010: Hudgins' resignation is effective.

Sources: Documents from Gov. Rick Perry's office and from Hudgins' attorney, John Michael Measells.

cmaclaggan@statesman.com; 445-3548