Mayor stands by his decision to fire Film Commission head

Mayor Gavin Newsom said Tuesday that he stands behind his effort to oust the head of the San Francisco Film Commission, but questions persist about the decision and his power of removal.

For five years, Stefanie Coyote served as Newsom’s choice to help revive the film industry in San Francisco as the executive director of the commission.

But soon after Newsom abandoned his gubernatorial bid in October, he had one of his staffers tell Coyote to resign.

The news surprised the mayor-appointed members of the Film Commission, who criticized the decision during a public meeting Monday. They also unanimously voted to send an official letter requesting a meeting with Newsom to discuss the resignation request. In response, the mayor’s chief of staff, Steve Kawa, plans to meet with commissioners in the coming days to hear their concerns.

But Newsom told The Examiner on Tuesday he stands by his decision, and he disagreed with commissioners’ comments.

“We’re moving forward. I made the decision,” he said. “I assure you there has been communication with my commission.”

Newsom said the removal “was not done for any other reason than it needed to be done,” and he wanted “to take filming in The City to the next level.”

Supervisor Chris Daly, who supports “the commission form of government,” voiced concern about Newsom’s actions. He said the City Charter does not grant the mayor authority to oust Coyote; she must either resign voluntarily or the commission must vote her out, which it seemingly doesn’t want to do.

It’s unclear if Coyote would defy Newsom’s request. Her departure date is thought to be Jan. 31.

Coyote declined to comment.

Newsom said he has spent the past two weeks interviewing for Coyote’s replacement.

Daly said Newsom doesn’t have the power to unilaterally hire. He said the commission must recommend three candidates for the mayor to pick.

“All protocols and laws will be followed per the City Charter,” Newsom spokesman Joe Arellano said.

jsabatini@sfexaminer.com

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