Officials of a small Missouri city are irate after visions of a cursing sugar plum fairy danced in their heads.
Laura Coppinger, 29, of St. Louis was booted from her long-time position as the Sugar Plum Fairy in the annual holiday parade in nearby St. Charles when she dropped some naughty language during a drug test required of all city employees.
Coppinger has been playing the character for the annual Christmas Traditions Festival for the past six years and is immensely popular among event-goers, and her firing has caused uproar in the town of about 66,000.
Coppinger accidentally flushed the toilet during the test, which is normally not allowed because the running water can be used to dilute the sample.
She was told she would have to stay and wait to give another test, making her late for a job interview.
"I don't have to take drug tests too often," she said, "so out of habit I flushed the toilet, and as soon as I did it I was like, oh, no,” Coppinger said to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. “Out of frustration with myself and frustration with the fact that I was going to have to sit another hour, I cursed," she said.
While she was waiting to take another test, she was told to go home. When she asked why, she was told to contact officials from St. Charles.
Coppinger was told she had broken a code of conduct for the festival, the section titled “Christmas Characters Don’t Know Naughty Words”.
“My objection is that this did not happen while she was on the job,” Jim Brown, owner of Riverside Sweets, a candy shop in downtown St. Charles, told FoxNews.com. “Nobody is perfect, and who hasn’t uttered a dirty word or two?”
“She did a fantastic job. She created a unique way of playing the character, and kids would just flock to her,” he continued.
This year, the city of St. Charles, took over hiring duties for the yearly event and under law all city employees are required to submit a drug test, even if, as in Coppinger’s case, they are already employed.
It was during her test at a facility when Coppinger let out the expletive — not while she was on the job.
City officials insist that she was not fired and that she was simply not hired for the 2011 season. And since it is a week before the start of the festival, the character of the Sugar Plum Fairy will be scrapped altogether.
“It is too late hour to recast the role,” said Carol Felzien, a spokeswoman for the city of St. Charles. “The festival begins in a week, so we have decided to focus on preparing with the 61 other characters involved.”
Felzien also said that Coppinger was not hired because she was unable to complete the hiring process in addition to breaking the code of conduct.
When asked to elaborate on the fact that Coppinger had tried to complete the process but was sent home before she could do so, Felzien said that she could not comment because it was an HR matter.
Mayor Sally Faith has declined to comment on the issue but released a written statement Tuesday after a city council meeting to determine if the decision should be reversed.
“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,” the statement read.
Business owners in the area have begun to discuss the possibly of hiring her to work the festival as an entirely new character because they feel she’s been treated unfairly.
“When she is in front of my store, crowds gather around. As a shop owner, that’s what you want," Brown said.
“I just might hire her to be the Candy Fairy for this year’s festival,” he said.