Council member asks: Who leaked confidential city memo?

City Council member John Autry
City Council member John Autry

A Charlotte City Council member is upset that a confidential memo was given to a television station, and wants the city to investigate how the memo was illegally released.

The memo is about Marty Puckett, the vice president of the Charlotte Firefighters Association.

Puckett had been working as an assistant for City Council member Claire Fallon, and City Manager Ron Carlee told Puckett in the memo that he believed that relationship was “unlawful” because council members aren’t allowed to have city employees working directly for them.

The March 4 written memo, written by Carlee, was handed to Puckett. It was also sent to City Attorney Bob Hagemann and Puckett’s boss, Fire Chief Jon Hannan.

Puckett’s association has feuded with Hannan over a number of issues.

The city considered the letter to be part of Puckett’s personnel file, which is exempt from public inspection.

Puckett is allowed under state law to release information from his own personnel file, but he said he didn’t do that.

“I did not,” he said. “There were only four people who had that letter. Who was it?”

At the end of Monday’s council meeting, council member John Autry asked his colleagues Monday to direct Hagemann to investigate how the memo was released.

“I would hope that this council would take this issue very, very seriously,” he said. “This confidential personnel matter memo ended up in the media. It was four people, I think it’s pretty narrow scope of where that leak came from.”

It’s possible the letter could have been forwarded to someone else, who then distributed to the media. (But as a part of an employee’s personnel file, few people would be entitled to see it.)

Hagemann said he could undertake an investigation, but he told council members it might not be effective. He said he was certain the television station that first reported on the memo, WBTV, would not disclose its source. And he added that he doesn’t have subpoena power and can’t make city employees testify under oath.

“It will require an admission,” he said.

Council members weren’t enthusiastic about launching a probe immediately.

Mayor Jennifer Roberts suggested it be discussed another time. At-large council member Vi Lyles said she took the matter seriously, but wanted more information about what Hagemann could do.

Puckett said he’s willing to take a polygraph test as part of any investigation.

Autry said he’s concerned that the council will lose interest in the issue if it doesn’t move quickly. But the council’s plan, as of now, is for Hagemann to first discuss with them ways the city could investigate.

“The more time lapses, it detracts from how serious this is,” he said “I would hope that this council would take this issue very, very seriously.”

Steve Harrison: 704-358-5160, @Sharrison_Obs