BANGOR, Maine — A state representative from Winterport who was working as Santa Claus at the Bangor Mall was fired from the seasonal job Thursday night, he said, likely because he used the word “damn” while dressed in the red suit.
Joe Brooks, who had been working as Santa six days a week since Nov. 15, said he was very upset when he was fired by two female representatives of Noerr Programs Inc., which operates shopping center photo services nationwide. They called him during his evening break, he said.
“At about 6 o’clock I got a phone call from corporate headquarters in Colorado. Two women called me and said they were relieving me of my duties,” he said by cellphone Friday. “When I asked them, ‘Why?’ They said they were not going to tell me. I said, ‘This is a pretty serious matter, relieving Santa Claus five days before Christmas.’”
After pressing the matter, and becoming upset on the phone, Brooks said he got some answers.
“I was asking, ‘Why, why, why?’ losing my composure, ‘For God’s sake why?’” Brooks said.
“They said, ‘Two weeks ago you were apprised of a complaint. This is a continuation of that,” the four-time state representative, now an independent, said. “They would not tell me what it [the complaint] was in reference too.”
Noerr spokesman Charlie Russell verified Friday that Brooks is no longer employed with the Arvada, Colo.-based company.
“A Santa change has been made at Bangor Mall,” he said in a follow up email. “The company does not comment on personnel issues.”
Brooks said the only thing that he can think of that could possibly have led to a complaint was a conversation he had with a staff member about three weeks ago during which he said, “I don’t give a damn.”
“Yes, I was in the kiosk and I probably should not have used that word,” Brooks said. “It was a private conversation. I didn’t think twice about it.”
He said he was never informed that a complaint about his language had been filed.
Brooks did hear of a complaint a few weeks ago that involved a photo of him not smiling that was posted on Facebook by a customer. He thought that complaint was settled, he said.
“I had this really weird look on my face and didn’t have a smile,” Brooks said of the photo, which he said was removed from Facebook by the woman at the request of the mall. “I thought that issue was long gone.”
“When you become Santa Claus you become a public figure beyond being a state representative,” Brooks said later. “It puts more flies into the ointment.”
“I have never been, in my entire life, sadder than I am today,” Brooks said later. “It’s so depressing to give your heart to a cause and that cause asks you to go away.”
Brooks, who worked as a reporter and editor at the Bangor Daily News until his retirement in 2001, posted the news of his firing on his own Facebook page, and titled the post: “Santa fired.”
After Brooks was fired, a security guard and the assistant mall manager arrived in the room where he was taking his break and escorted him out of the building and asked him not to return, he said
“I don’t know about Santa, but Joe Brooks is not allowed to enter the Bangor Mall,” Brooks said.