Santa Claus walked a picket line Friday after a company that provides Santas was fired by mall managers because an elf allegedly made a suggestive comment to a store employee.

Bernard Zolnowsky, president and ``head Santa Claus' of Old Style Music, said he and several other workers dressed as Santa, Mrs. Claus and elves decided to picket the Seneca Mall to show the public that the mall ``is playing Scrooge' by firing them at the start of the season.``They said the elf on Saturday had made a comment to a store employee that he wanted to molest her body,' Zolnowsky said. He refused to identify the man hired as an elf.

Lawrence Rose, manager of the mall just south of Buffalo, told the Santa company Sunday

``They said, point blank, if you don't fire the elf, we'll terminate your contract,' he said.

Rose said the mall's attorneys told him not to comment on any allegations concerning the elf. But he said that wasn't the reason Old Style's contract was invalidated and that the contract says management needs no reason to cancel the contract.

``We terminated the contract on the basis of the general quality in the operation of the Santa Claus operation,' Rose said. ``We did not feel this was up to our standards.'

Zolnowsky said that when he first heard about the allegation ``there was steam coming out of my ears. My first idea was to fire this person.'

But he said the elf convinced him that he didn't say anything to the female employee.

Zolnowsky said the mall management refused to give him any proof of the allegation or a affidavit containing the store employee's claim.

Old Style will remain at the mall until its contract concludes at the end of the month.

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