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FanX to add harassment hotline to convention

Co-founder who announced he was on leave in May will step back into his old job

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Bryan Brandenburg

Bryan Brandenburg

Cristy Meiners, Deseret News

SALT LAKE CITY — Following criticism that it has not taken sexual harassment seriously, Salt Lake City's pop culture convention says a 24-hour hotline will take any reports of harassment during its three-day run in September.

The Utah Attorney General's Office will staff the help line, Salt Lake FanX announced Monday. The resource comes after event organizers issued a "zero tolerance” policy on bullying, abuse and harassment.

FanX co-founder Bryan Brandenburg, who in May said he was taking an indefinite leave of absence amid outcry over his handling of a report of inappropriate behavior, struck the phone line agreement with Attorney General Sean Reyes at the Electronic Entertainment Expo in Los Angeles in June, said FanX spokeswoman Cheryl Snapp Conner.

Brandenburg stepped out of the spotlight to work toward his primary goal of building FanX programs to combat discrimination and bullying, Conner said. The period was a "heartfelt" response meant to show he was listening to those who expressed concern, Conner added.

He will step back into a marketing role sometime later this month, but it's not certain exactly when, she said.

Brandenburg and co-founder Dan Farr said in a joint statement: "Our goal is to lead the fan convention industry with the most progressive and effective solutions to keep our family friendly convention as safe as possible."

The planned hotline is similar to another that the attorney general's office helped provide to the Sundance Film Festival in January, when Sundance was grappling with newly surfaced allegations of sexual assault and misconduct that took place at the event years apart. Two of those were made against movie mogul Harvey Weinstein. Multiple actresses have accused him of either assaulting them or exposing himself to them.

At the FanX convention on Sept 6-8, the help line will take information from possible victims and witnesses on violations of its policy, and the attorney general's office will provide immediate help in investigating, organizers said. Volunteers also will receive extensive training from the Utah Coalition of Sexual Assault and other groups to ensure a quick and effective response to reports, according to the statement.

A community council whose members will be announced next week also will help support the zero tolerance mission, FanX officials said.

In May, Brandenburg said he was taking an indefinite leave of absence and would attend the convention as a fan. He apologizedto author Shannon Hale for suggesting she "sit this one out" and said he inadvertently posted her private email address online after she told the organization she had concerns about its response to a sexual harassment complaint against a fellow author. The exchange led other guests and authors to cancel scheduled appearances at the convention.