After seven and half years as the "face" of cable in Halifax and Plympton, Bob Gohl was terminated from his position with Comcast for what he was told was a violation of company policy.
After seven and half years as the "face" of cable in Halifax and Plympton, Bob Gohl was terminated from his position with Comcast for what he was told was a violation of company policy. Returning early from a vacation with his wife, Gohl headed to work, and to his surprise he found the office, which was like a second home to him for more than seven years, locked. When he called to learn what was hapening, he was told to return the following day and everything would be explained. When he got to the office the following day, Friday Sept. 14, several Comcast employees began questioning him for 15 minutes about the work he had done for the Plympton Tercentennial and videos sold from the events. After the questioning, Gohl was handed his final check and fired on the spot. "I was shocked, confused, very much upset because it just didn’t add up to me," Gohl said about his sudden termination. Two years prior to Plympton's 300th anniversary, when Adelphia was the cable company in Halifax and Plympton, Gohl embarked on creating the Tercentennial documentary video for purchase to support the event. When Comcast took over, Gohl explained to them what he was doing for the town, and that the sale of the videotapes was a fundraiser for the event, he said. He also explained that he would be doing all the legwork for the project on his own time, but would need to use the Comcast equipment for the taping and editing of the project. As a way to be financially sensitive to people in Plympton, Gohl was selling the videos for $10, with the understanding that the proceeds were going towards the Tercentennial celebration. Comcast, which generally sells copies of their programs for $30, questioned why the sale of the videos was only $10. Gohl said, because of his involvement with the documentary and video work, the money for the tapes was given directly to him and many of the checks were made out in his name. He cashed the checks and gave the money to the Tercentennial Committee. He believes the transaction may have led Comcast to think he was pocketing the money for himself. When Gohl attempted to apply for unemployment he was denied because the unemployment office was under the impression his termination was due to money-related issues. Chairwoman of the Tercentennial Committee Christine Joy sent a letter informing the unemployment agency that all the money from the sale of the documentary from was accounted for. "I am writing to certify that Robert Gohl provided the Tercentennial Committee with the money received for 58 DVD/DHS orders of the Tercentennial Documentary and/or the Tercentennial Celebration at a cost of $10 each for a total of $580," Joy wrote. Gohl said during the questioning that took place prior to his termination a Comcast representative made him aware that all money from the sale of tapes and DVDs must be turned into the Comcast office. The Tercentennial videos were done as a separate project and therefore Gohl said he did not think he needed to follow Comcast policy. "I thought they understood the end product was far a fundraiser, not for the company," he said. During Gohl’s many years as the production coordinator for the towns of Halifax and Plympton he has covered numerous events, created close relationships within the two towns and also received a New England Cable and Telecommunications Association Home Town Hero Award in 2004. "As the production coordinator, Robert is responsible for covering local municipal meetings, training volunteers, and helping to generate new programming. He routinely surpasses these job responsibilities by endearing himself to the communities of Halifax and Plympton in such a way that he has now become a local fixture," Robert Wahl Senior Vice President of Operations for Adelphia in 2004 wrote in his nomination letter. As shocked as Gohl was upon returning from vacation to find himself fired, the two communities he covered are in even more shock. Since learning about Gohl's termination, residents in both towns have created a petition asking Comcast to reinstate Gohl. In the past few weeks, the petitions have circulated at soccer games, in front of the post office, and at the local grocery store, collecting between 800 and 1,000 signatures. Geri Bernier of Halifax said when she and Dot Landry, also of Halifax, heard what happened they were in shock. They could not believe someone so devoted to the town and so dedicated to his job would be terminated, Bernier said. "I take my hat off to him, I wouldn’t go back, but he was so devoted to his job, he loved his job and he wants to go back," Bernier said. "I can’t believe they got rid of him because of the good he has done, he made Comcast look good, and this now makes Comcast look bad." Jim Keegan of Halifax said the group’s main concern is trying to reverse Comcast’s decision and give Gohl his job back. Gohl has done a lot for the communities of Halifax and Plympton, donated hundreds of hours, and ton of work outside of the scope of his Comcast position, he said. "They should consider him an asset," Keegan said. "I realize we’re only two small towns about 10,000 to 11,000 people, but Bob by all means is the biggest selling feature for Comcast. He brings a personal touch to a big company." Since the petition was started, town officials from selectmen to school principals have written letters on Gohl’s behalf. Chairman of the Halifax selectmen Troy Garron wrote a letter on Sept. 18, to Gerald Buckley at Comcast expressing his board’s dismay with Gohl’s firing, and explaining the importance to the town. "For most people in Halifax, Mr. Gohl is the "face" of Comcast and Comcast’s reputation was enhanced by Mr. Gohl’s work," Garron wrote in his letter. "It will be difficult for Comcast to find someone to do everything that Bob Gohl did on behalf of Comcast and the Town of Halifax." Diane Biggieri, Principal of Halifax Elementary wrote a lengthy letter on Oct. 11, pointing out the many events Gohl covered throughout the years as well as the services he provided. Some of the points she wrote about included: Gohl’s development of a "kids program" to promote education in special skills, his coverage of concerts and plays, and especially his coverage of school committee meetings. She stated his coverage of the school committee meetings allowed many working parents to follow-up on ongoing school issues. "Mr. Bob Gohl has been a positive influence on our school and committee," Biggieri wrote. Jim Hughes, a Comcast spokesman, said he could not discuss the issue and released a statement of behalf of Comcast. "Because it is a personnel issue we cannot discuss the details of Mr. Gohl’s departure from the company," Hughes said. Landry said the group feels it was unfair the way Gohl was fired, and never given an opportunity to explain after all the work he has done. She said the misunderstanding is not enough of an offense for him to be dismissed. Landry and the rest of the group are trying to get 1,200 names on the petition, which they anticipate to have after the weekend is over, and send the petition with the letters to Comcast headquarters. "They should consider him an asset, he is the public face of cable television in the community," Keegan said. Gohl did not plan on trying to regain his position, but said he loved his job and would like to continue doing it. After hearing how the communities came together to help him get his job back, he began embracing the idea, and then cried over the tremendous outpour of support he has received. "I like to give people a front row seat to what is going on in their towns," Gohl said. "I love my job!"