Context is always important. For example, being told you have a set of brass balls in front of a bunch of firefighters could be a good thing or a bad thing. It might mean you are one tough firefighter. That’s something to be proud of. But a lot rides on who is saying it and what the back story is on whether that message will be well received.
Career Firefighter Brent Fox from Harrison Township, New Jersey didn’t take too kindly when Fire Commissioner Mike Koestler not only told everyone Fox had brass balls but presented the firefighter with an award depicting said balls. The award, according to Gloucester County Times’ Rebecca Forand, had been handed out at previous department installation and recognition dinners, but apparently this was the first time someone didn’t like getting gonads as a gift. Fox received the award for campaigning against someone who could be his boss.
Following a complaint from Fox, the Harrison Township Board of Fire Commissioners ruled yesterday that the award presentation violated the harassment policy for the fire district.
In February of this year, Koestler and Vice Chairman of the Board of Commissioners Ed Selb were running, along with four other candidates, for two empty seats on the board. Fox campaigned for Selb — his father-in-law — against Koestler.
“As an employee of the district I take offense,” Fox said at Thursday’s hearing. “It’s my right as a resident and a citizen to campaign for whoever I choose.”
Fox was not in attendance at the March 30 dinner, but upon hearing about the award, brought a complaint of workplace harassment against Koestler, who maintained throughout the investigation and hearing that the award was given in an air of comedy as a gag prize.
The commissioners ordered an investigation and had a public hearing (Koestler’s request) into the case of the offending cojones. The testimony was mixed with some saying this was a witch hunt against Commissioner Koestler and others believing it crossed the line.
In the end, Koestler was ordered to take a workplace harassment course, a letter was put in his file and the balls were crushed.
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