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Coyote’s Wife Has Past Film Comm Scandals

From the archives of the San Francisco Chronicle:

(From left): Tatiana Sorokko, actor Peter Coyote, gallerist Serge Sorokko and S.F. Film Commissioner Stefanie Coyote.

Actors Penn, Coyote play bit parts in S.F. Film Commission drama

Phillip Matier, Andrew Ross

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Quite a drama down at San Francisco City Hall this week, with no less than Sean Penn and Peter Coyote showing up before the Film Commission to show support for Coyote’s wife and the city’s film czarina, Stefanie Pleet Coyote.

It started a couple of Fridays ago, with what we’re told was an office blowout between Film Commission executive Pleet Coyote and her deputy director, Michael Billington — who for the past seven years has been the film industry’s point person for scheduling local shoots.

At one point, Pleet Coyote tried to take refuge in a women’s restroom down the hall from the commission office, only to be followed by Billington. The argument then continued all the way back to the office, where Pleet Coyote declared she had had enough and threatened to call the sheriff, City Hall sources say.

When Billington didn’t leave, Pleet Coyote made a beeline downstairs to the mayor’s office, where senior staffer Jesse Blout was summoned for help. Blout then went upstairs and told Billington it was time to go home…

Billington returned to work Oct. 19 — only to be informed that he was being dismissed.

The firing touched off a battle between Pleet Coyote’s and Billington’s supporters, both on the commission and in the film community. We’re told that no fewer than three dozen letters in support of Billington were sent to the Film Commission president, and more went to the mayor’s office.

There is even talk among some commissioners that it may be time to order up a review of Pleet Coyote’s job performance dating back to her arrival a year ago — including a possible ethics violation over her billing the city $1,125 for a couple of dozen boxes of scouting photos and other materials she had owned and turned over to the film office.

Commissioners feared that the firing would blow up in a big public display for Billington at Monday’s Film Commission hearing.

Which, as far as anyone can figure, is why actors Penn and Coyote showed up — to make sure they had Pleet Coyote’s back…

Pleet Coyote said the two had been on hand for moral support. She declined to discuss Billington’s firing, calling it a personnel matter.

As for billing the city for her files, she said she had charged only a nominal amount. Once the mayor’s office pointed out the “perception problem” Monday, she promptly reimbursed the city.

“I realized it was naive of me not to realize it was a problem,” Pleet Coyote said.

Billington declined to comment on his firing, saying only that it had been an honor to serve the city…

Sean Penn (left) and Peter Coyote leave the Film Commission hearing.

According to the San Francisco website SFist:

H. Brown accuses Coyote of firing Billington because he blew the whistle on $1,200 Coyote charged The City for location scouting photos from her own production company six months ago. Coyote called herself “naive” for not realizing that was an obvious conflict of interest, and returned the money. But H. forwarded us an anonymous note from one “KS” who says that there are more indiscretions and that they have documentation…

And there have been plenty of other problems in Ms. Pleet-Coyote’s brief tenure as the San Francisco film commissioner, including the local filming of Rent and Treasure Island.

Shocking, isn’t it?

This article was posted by Steve Gilbert on Wednesday, September 26th, 2007. Comments are currently closed.

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