St. Charles Mayor Sally Faith said on Tuesday night that the city made the right decision to not rehire the actress who played the Sugar Plum Fairy in Christmas Traditions.
Coppinger, 29, played the beloved character each Christmas season for the past five years. This year, the city elected not to rehire her after she cursed while taking a pre-employment drug test for the city.
Faith said in the statement that the city had looked forward to having Coppinger be a part of Christmas Traditions again.
"However, given her excessively inappropriate behavior and language at the drug testing facility and actions following this process, the city made the right decision in not rehiring this former cast member," Faith said. "In fact, I would go even further in underscoring we would not hire anyone to work for the city of St. Charles who behaves in such an unacceptable manner."
Coppinger said she understands the city's point of view, because the Sugar Plum Fairy is supposed to be a role model for the city.
"I wish they'd look at my track record over the past five years," she said.
The city took over running the Christmas Traditions festival two years ago, but this was the first year that the actors had to take a drug test and pass a background check to get the job.
Carol Felzien, spokeswoman for the city, said last year the characters were hired as contractors, but this year they were hired as part-time employees, and thus were subject to city rules for employment.
Christmas Traditions actors also have to agree to standards of conduct, among the rules that they "don't know naughty words."
Coppinger said she cursed at the drug-testing facility after she learned she'd have to retake the test because she accidentally flushed the toilet. Coppinger said she reached out to the city's human resources department, but never heard back.
Tim Schappe, owner of Tuner's Bar, hung a sign outside of his bar encouraging residents to call their council members and voice support for the Sugar Plum Fairy. He said had Coppinger cursed while in costume, it would be a different story.
"It's petty," he said. "It's petty of the city to do this."
Vicki Erwin, who owns Main Street Books, said she completely understands the city's rule regarding cursing while in character.
"I do know some people take a strong stance on cursing," she said. "But we all have our moments."
Erwin said she's heard from customers who said the Sugar Plum Fairy was the reason they came to Christmas Traditions. She said the city's decision not to rehire Coppinger may have an impact on the success of the annual event.
"I feel like it dims it," she said.
For her part, Coppinger has encouraged community members to continue supporting the actors and Main Street merchants who make Christmas Traditions what it is.
"If I don't get my job back, I hope people still come and support the festival," she said.
However, some merchants on Main Street had discussed the possibility of hiring Coppinger themselves. Coppinger said she'd be interested in continuing to be the Sugar Plum Fairy.
"I fell in love with her," she said. "She's certainly one of the most fun characters I've been able to play. She's a clown."
St. Charles Mayor Sally Faith's Public Statement released Nov. 15:
"I wanted to take a brief moment to thank everyone who has contacted the city of St. Charles related to the Christmas Traditions festival. I appreciate people taking the time to express opinions on the subject. It is unfortunate that what has appeared in the local news media is one-sided at best.
As you might imagine, the situation surrounding hiring the Sugar Plum Fairy character for our year-end Christmas Traditions celebration is a personnel matter. As such, it would be inappropriate for me or any other city officials to discuss related details. However, what I can tell you is the city takes great pride in ensuring the integrity of all our various events and festivals, and we have policies and protocols in place to support that end.
For the purposes of background, our Director of Human Resources extended 62 prospective offers to individuals who applied and auditioned for the part-time roles of a Christmas Traditions character this year. Out of those 62 people – two of whom were children applying for the role of Tiny Tim – a total of 61 people were able to follow the process to the letter, and, as a result, their job offers were approved and finalized. In the case of the Sugar Plum Fairy applicant, these same contingencies were not met during the hiring process.
I’d also like to add that the individual who has played the character of the Sugar Plum Fairy in past years has done a fantastic job. All of us involved with the Christmas Traditions festival appreciate her participation in previous years, and likewise, we were looking forward to having her back again this year. However, given her excessively inappropriate behavior and language at the drug testing facility and actions following this process, the city made the right decision in not rehiring this former cast member.
In fact, I would go even further in underscoring we would not hire anyone to work for the city of St. Charles who behaves in such an unacceptable manner. So the key element I would like everyone to remember is that as a prospective employee of the city, she was not fired, as she was never actually hired to participate in the 2011 festival.
As we move forward in kicking off this season’s Christmas Traditions festival a week from Friday, I would encourage everyone to continue supporting St. Charles’ year-end festivities, along with all the many fine merchants in our historic district. Thank you and I’ll look forward to seeing everyone on Main Street the Friday after Thanksgiving."