- The Washington Times - Saturday, October 25, 2008

Santa Claus will be coming to town again this year. The Tysons Corner mall Santa whose September firing caused a public outcry is being reinstated in time for the holiday season.

Michael Graham, an 18-year veteran Santa and holiday fixture at the Tysons Corner Center, was in the process of working out details of an agreement with the mall Friday to reinstate him through the end of 2012.

“The expected outcome is that Mr. Graham will be working again during the holidays,” said Steve Winter, president of Falls Church-based Brotman Winter Fried Communications.

Mr. Winter’s firm worked for Mr. Graham pro bono to spread the word about his abrupt termination. The firing came too late in the season for the Tennessee native to immediately find another position.

It was not clear why Mr. Graham was fired, though the conflict may have stemmed from a salary dispute. While Mr. Graham makes around $30,000 each year to play Santa, he has to pay for his costume, transportation from Tennessee and hotel bills while staying in the area.

“That decision was made so we could make a better experience and a more magical experience for the children and our shoppers,” Allison Fischer, spokeswoman for Tysons Corner Center, had said Tuesday.

According to Pamela Deese, an attorney with Arent Fox in the District, Mr. Graham had legal claims, which were being addressed Friday. A friend of Mr. Graham’s, Ms. Deese said that he called her for input when the mall did not respond to his calls and then informed him in a letter that he was being let go.

Ms. Deese was friends with Mr. Winter, and the two worked with Mr. Graham to plan a strategy to help him get his job back.

According to Mr. Winter, Mr. Graham might not have gotten his job back without the help of the thousands of e-mails and phone calls he received in support from the public.

“I’m both honored and humbled by all of the calls and e-mails I’ve received from thousands of fans nationwide,” Mr. Graham said in a press release Thursday.

“The public really ran with it,” Mr. Winter said. “We never expected the public support to be this great.”

Ms. Deese said that she thought that the public support had helped Mr. Graham’s cause. “Everybody roots for Santa,” she said.

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