SALT LAKE CITY — FanX Salt Lake Comic Convention co-founder Bryan Brandenburg has returned to the organization after a brief leave of absence that he says provided him a “great opportunity” to improve the harassment policies at the event.
FanX came under fire in May after a harassment dispute between Brandenburg and Utah author Shannon Hale played out publicly on Twitter earlier this year. Hale had contacted Brandenburg about concerns she had over harassment claims made at a previous FanX event and the way staffers handled those reports. It was later revealed Brandenburg had suggested Hale "sit this one out" (regarding the upcoming convention) and then published her full name and private email address in a Twitter response after she posted their exchange online.
Brandenburg later apologized and took a leave of absence, saying the absence was meant to help FanX and its fans move forward following the harassment debacle.
Now, Brandenburg is back representing FanX on the marketing team. He said he remained a part of FanX behind the scenes, coordinating volunteers and working to develop a more comprehensive harassment policy for the event.
“We realized we needed a more holistic approach and a comprehensive universal harassment policy,” Brandenburg said Wednesday. “Not only did we, I think, successfully recover from our challenge, but now we are leading the industry in the most solid harassment policy and implementation process of anywhere in the country.”
Brandenburg said FanX staffers believed they had dealt appropriately with the harassment issues Hale brought up and that the interaction wasn’t treated completely fair.
Brandenburg pointed to FanX’s new 24-hour harassment hotline, which will be available for event attendees to report any misconduct taking place. The hotline will be put in place through a collaboration with Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes’s office and is patterned after a similar hotline that was instituted at the Sundance Film Festival earlier this year.
Brandenburg also worked with FanX lawyers and advisers to put together a community council that will represent the needs of fans at the event. The council includes members of the community, including some who were considered FanX critics in the past, he said.
“We put them together and we have really a super-solid council that will represent the needs of the fan to make sure that this will be our safest event ever,” Brandenburg said.
He said he believes that FanX already had a solid harassment policy for dealing with any issues between cosplayers.
Now, the policy has been expanded so it covers any harassment that arises between other FanX attendees, including cosplayers, staffers, volunteers, celebrities and others, Brandenburg said.
“With that in place, I felt good that we had addressed all the concerns and tracked down every rumor or complaint that was floating out there, and felt like we had dealt with everything,” he said. “Then it was time for me to come back and promote the event.”
Hale did not respond to an email this week requesting comment about Brandenburg’s return to the convention.