State News

October 1, 2013

City of Savannah fires director of film office

SAVANNAH — The director of Savannah’s film office was fired Monday after city officials said complaints surfaced about the production of “Spongebob 2 The Movie.”

City officials first suspended Film Services Director Jay Self without pay, and decided to fire him during an appeal hearing Monday afternoon.

Self’s boss, Joseph Shearouse, the city’s leisure services bureau chief, will assume many of Self’s duties while the city looks for a replacement, city spokesman Brett Bell said. Bell declined to comment further on the city’s decision to fire Self or the factors that led to the decision, saying city officials typically don’t speak publicly about personnel matters.

A Sept. 23 city memo obtained by WTOC-TV accuses Self of shortcomings surrounding the filming of the Spongebob sequel. It cites complaints from local businesses and others.   

“This action is as a result of your failure to properly plan and manage the arrangement for the movie ‘SpongeBob 2 The Movie,”’ Shearouse, said in a memo to Self explaining the suspension. In the memo, Shearouse referred to a meeting that he, Self and the city manager had held on July 17 to discuss the movie.

“At that time, you assured the City Manager that prior to the arrival of the movie’s production team all issues with businesses related to the movie would be resolved,” he wrote.

Then, in late August, Shearouse and Self met again.

“At that time I told you your position as Film Services Director was in jeopardy,” Shearouse said.  

After the production team arrived, the mayor and city manager received “numerous” complaints from local businesses, Shearouse said.

In a 14-page statement provided by his attorney, Self said the city’s decision to terminate him violates his constitutional right to due process because he was never given an opportunity to respond to complaints that were made against him — which Self says he neither saw nor heard before he was suspended.  

“I have given my heart and soul to establishing this office and making Savannah a film-friendly community,” Self said in the statement. “I did so over the last 18 years by building relationships in and outside of Savannah, but I also did so by ensuring that, when the movie stars and deep-pocketed film companies pack up and leave Savannah, they do so leaving Savannah in a better place.”

Ruel Joyner, president of the Downtown Business Association, was quoted by the Savannah Morning News as saying that Self has always been a good liaison between local businesses and production companies.

Filming for “SpongeBob Squarepants 2 The Movie” has already started on Tybee Island and is expected to move to downtown Savannah in the near future, Bell said.

He added that the production is expected to produce about $8 million in direct revenue for the city, and several times that amount in indirect revenue.

 

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