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Charlotte Fire Chief Jon Hannan retiring after 38 years

dhinshaw@charlotteobserver.com

Charlotte Fire Chief Jon Hannan said Thursday that he plans to retire on Aug. 31, after 38 years with the department.

“It has been a pleasure and honor to be part of this great fire department,” Hannan said in a memo to his staff. “I am continuously amazed by what you can accomplish, every division in this organization is the best at what it does. I could go on forever but that has never been my way.

“I have come to realize that what I can do to move the department forward and up has been accomplished,” he said. “It is time for me to pass it on. Continue to do your duty and make a difference wherever you can, always lean forward!”

Hannan joined the department in 1978 as a dispatcher and was promoted to various roles before being named fire chief in 2007.

During Hannan’s tenure, the department grew to 42 stations with more than 1,200 firefighters, according to a statement from the city. Average response time is less than five minutes for approximately 120,000 annual incidents, according to the city.

Hannan’s tenure was not without controversy, however. Former city manager Ron Carlee wanted to fire Hannan last year but City Council blocked the move, according to a deposition from a lawsuit that ended with a $1.5 million verdict against the city.

Carlee wanted to fire Hannan because of the chief’s “lying” to him over leaking part of a personnel file to retaliate against a firefighter union leader, according to his deposition.

In May, a jury returned a $1.5 million verdict against the city and the Fire Department, which was found to have retaliated against a former fire investigator. The jury found the Fire Department retaliated against Crystal Eschert because she went outside the chain of command when she complained about the safety of a new fire department building.

Under Charlotte’s form of government, the city manager can hire and fire officials like the fire chief. But City Council hires the manager, and elected officials can have tremendous influence over personnel decisions.

“There was not a consensus of support among executives in the city, nor the city council, and in the end I think taking that action would have been extraordinarily divisive, would have had adverse consequences on the operations of the fire department and would have been very divisive with the functioning of city council,” Carlee said in his deposition.

Carlee did not testify at the trial. But his testimony about wanting to remove the chief was read to jurors. Hannan was placed on three-month probation for the leak.

Joe Marusak: 704-358-5067, @jmarusak

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