After praising Chris Langley Tuesday for his unique area of expertise and dedication to promoting Inyo County’s film industry, the Board of Supervisors nevertheless voted to not reimburse the longtime film commissioner for work performed over the past seven months.
Despite Langley’s assurances that the work was performed out of good faith in an effort to preserve important film industry relationships – and despite County Administrator Kevin Carunchio taking responsibility for the lapse in Langley’s contract – the board declined to pay Langley because he has technically not been under a contract with the county since June.
According to First District Supervisor and Board Chair Linda Arcularius, the county has no obligation to pay an employee who does work out of contract. She said she feared that compensating Langley would “set a precedent” that future county contractors may exploit.
Arcularius said the work Langley did after his contract expired was “a choice that he made.”
Langley said Wednesday that Carunchio never promised that he would be paid for out-of-contract work, “but I assumed I was going to get paid.”
During the seven months he worked without a contract, Langley fielded hundreds of phone calls from production companies, met in the field with several location scouts working for commercial or film productions and was instrumental in helping to permit and find locations for three major Hollywood films.
“I wouldn’t do it any different,” Langley said. “It was the best thing for the county. I’m heartbroken, but I’m not angry. It was just the right thing to do, it’s important that we don’t look like a bunch of local yokels to Hollywood. I’m just disappointed I didn’t get paid.”
Langley has been performing this type of work under contract with the county since 2007.
Each year, county leaders would review and, up until 2012, approve a $40,000 contract with Langley as the “Sole Source Provider” for Film Commission services, which includes advertising Inyo County as a film-friendly community with diverse, natural sets. The Film Commissioner is also responsible for guiding directors and producers through the local permitting process, which could include federal agencies such as the Bureau of Land Management, and ensuring that the local landscape is not damaged while crews film locally.
Before considering approval of Langley’s contract in November 2011, Arcularius and then-Fourth District Supervisor Marty Fortney said they had heard interest from one or more constituents about serving as Film Commissioner.
At that time, the board agreed to extend Langley’s existing contract until May 31, 2012, and directed Carunchio and staff to prepare an RFP so the county could review applications for other Film Commissioner hopefuls.
Carunchio told the Board Tuesday he takes full responsibility for the delay in preparing the RFP, which wasn’t ready until seven months after Langley’s contract expired in June 2012. Carunchio said he has been busy on other projects, and it took approximately 40 staff hours, “which are hard to come by,” to complete the RFP.
“I was told a year ago, in November 2011, that (the RFP) would be done in January 2012,” Langley said. “The frustrating part is that the RFP was never written.”
Langley said Carunchio has always been supportive of him and the Film Commission, but was simply too busy to complete the RFP in a timely manner.
This week, Carunchio presented the long-awaited RFP to the Board of Supervisors. The board, in turn, voted to issue the RFP to see if anyone other than Langley is interested in serving as Film Commissioner. That’s when the board also decided it would not pay Langley for the work he did out-of-contract from June to December 2012.
The board did approve a motion to create a retroactive contract with Langley that will ensure he is reimbursed for costs associated with Film Commission activities from Jan. 1, 2013 through March 30, when the now-issued RFP closes.
While discussing the RFP Tuesday, all five board members agreed that Langley has gone above and beyond the call of duty to serve as Inyo’s Film Commissioner and said opening the position to other candidates is not a reflection of his performance. They said they were agreeing to release the RFP because the public has requested an open recruitment for the position.
And at least three of the supervisors initially said they thought Langley should be reimbursed for the seven months he continued to do the job without a contract.
Fifth District Supervisor Matt Kingsley said he agreed that the county should honor the public’s wishes and release the RFP, but also proposed a retroactive contract for Langley that would ensure that he is reimbursed for expenses he incurred while working out-of-contract in 2012.
“The skills that Chris brings to the table are unique,” Kingsley said. “The passion and contacts that he has are impossible for someone else to duplicate. I think it’s important that he be compensated for the time he put in this fiscal year, he’s been doing work.”
Fourth District Supervisor Mark Tillemans and Third District Supervisor Rick Pucci both said Langley should be paid for the work he did in 2012, even if he didn’t have a contract with the county.
“His skill-set is unique, you can’t fabricate that,” Tillemans said. “I agree that he should be compensated.”
Pucci said that it is important for Inyo to keep a Film Commissioner on board and “Mr. Langley is excellent at it. I think we need to sponsor Mr. Langley.”
Arcularius, however, said paying Langley for out-of-contract would set a precedent. She also told Kingsley that voting to pay Langley for the past seven months of Film Commission work he has done “would be totally unsupportive of the (County) Administrative Officer” and undermine the actions of the previous Board of Supervisors.
“Whatever the decision of the board is, it reflects nothing on the current person,” Arcularius said. “I have had interest expressed to me, this is the people’s money, and I, as one board member, have an obligation to see those proposals. It’s the people’s money, so I would have it be as open and fair as possible.”
Kingsley said his suggestion to pay Langley is not a reflection on Carunchio, but a move to have a dedicated county contractor compensated for ongoing work. “He was operating under the assumption that there would be some compensation for the work he put in,” Kingsley said. “I just want to make it as right for Mr. Langley as possible.”
In the end, Kingsley made the motion and the board unanimously agreed to issue the RFP and create a contract for Langley’s services from Jan. 1, 2013 through March, the deadline for the RFP – without back pay.