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Oscars Academy Board Bypassed New Grievance Procedures to Expel Polanski, Cosby

Loophole alert! Board has authority to expel any member ”for cause“ with two-thirds vote outside of new Code of Conduct process

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences bypassed its new three-month-old grievance procedures to expel disgraced members Bill Cosby and Roman Polanski on Thursday, TheWrap has learned.

Instead, the Academy exercised a clause in its bylaws allowing the 54-person Board of Governors to expel any member “for cause” with a two-thirds vote. According to an individual with knowledge of the situation, the board was motivated in part by the fact that both Cosby and Polanski had been convicted of sexually related crimes in U.S. courts.

But Polanski’s lawyer, Harland Braun, said Friday that the Oscar-winning director was “blindsided” by the expulsion and asked “the Academy to follow its own rules which is to give Roman 10 days notice to present his side.”

Turns out there’s a loophole that allowed the board to act as it did. Asked about whether the Academy had followed the due-process procedures outlined in the updated grievances process announced in January, a spokesperson cited the Academy’s Standards of Conduct, Section 8.

“The Board of Governors retains its independent duty and authority as outlined in the bylaws to address and take action on any matter, whether submitted by the process outlined above or not, related to a member’s status and to enforce the Academy’s Standards of Conduct,” reads the section. In other words, the board retains the right to step in and discipline members regardless of whether a formal grievance process has been triggered.

In addition, the Academy bylaws state: “any member of the Academy may be suspended or expelled for cause by the Board of Governors. Expulsion or suspension as herein provided for shall require the affirmative vote of not less than two-thirds of all the Governors.”

According to the Academy’s revised Code of Conduct, issued in January, when a claim of misconduct is brought to the attention of the Membership and Administration Committee for review, the committee has the option of taking no action, or “notifying the subject of the claim in writing, at the member’s current address on file with the Membership Department, and provide the member with an opportunity to respond in writing within 10 business days.”

Additionally, “once the subject of a claim has been notified, and the time frame for response has passed, the Membership and Administration Committee will review the full complaint in a timely manner and may,” if the matter is serious enough “refer it to the Board of Governors. Only the Board can make the final determination on whether to suspend or expel a member.”

The Code says the member will be informed in writing of any final decision made, at which point “the member shall be entitled to appeal the decision within 10 business days.”

According to the Associated Press, Polanski learned of his expulsion from media reports.

Polanski was expelled 15 years after his film “The Pianist” took home Oscars for Best Director, Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Actor at the 75th Academy Awards. The film was nominated for Best Picture, but lost to “Chicago.”

Polanski was arrested and charged with raping 13-year-old Samantha Geimer in 1977. He pleaded guilty and was imprisoned for 42 days, after which he was released and put on probation as part of a plea bargain. When Polanski learned that a judge was planning to revoke the plea deal, the director fled Paris before the sentencing.

Cosby, a longtime Academy member best known for his work in TV, last week was convicted of three counts of aggravated indecent assault in over accusations made by former Temple University employee Andrea Constand.

Steve Pond contributed to this report.