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After heated meeting, Hannan remains Charlotte’s fire chief

Charlotte City Manager Ron Carlee and Charlotte Fire Chief Jon Hannan speak at a press conference about the release of an investigator’s report into the firing of whisteblower Crystal Eschert, who claims it was retaliation for her complaints about a building under renovation.
Charlotte City Manager Ron Carlee and Charlotte Fire Chief Jon Hannan speak at a press conference about the release of an investigator’s report into the firing of whisteblower Crystal Eschert, who claims it was retaliation for her complaints about a building under renovation. dhinshaw@charlotteobserver.com

Jon Hannan remained Charlotte fire chief Tuesday, a day after a heated City Council closed session meeting in which city officials discussed whether he should remain in charge.

The issue is over whether Hannan leaked a memo that was part of a firefighter’s personnel file and not open to public inspection.

The March 4 memo was written by City Manager Ron Carlee to Marty Puckett, the vice president of the Charlotte Firefighters Association Local 660. Puckett had been working as an unpaid intern for City Council member Claire Fallon, an arrangement that Carlee said was “unlawful” and could result in Puckett’s termination.

Puckett and Fallon have been critical of Hannan’s management of the department.

Only two other people were copied on the memo: Hannan and the city attorney.

WBTV news reported on the memo, which prompted City Council member John Autry to ask the city to investigate who leaked it.

In an interview with WSOC news Monday, Hannan said he did not leak the memo.

That led to Monday’s closed session meeting.

If Carlee wishes to discipline Hannan, either with a suspension or termination, he did not need council’s approval. In Charlotte’s form of government, council members hire a manager, who is responsible for hiring and firing of city officials, including the fire chief.

But in Monday’s meeting, some council members were not enthusiastic about the possibility of firing Hannan, according to people familiar with the conversations.

Prior to the meeting, about 200 firefighters packed the council’s meeting room, in a sign of solidarity with the chief.

Carlee himself has an uncertain future with the city.

Last month he announced he would not seek a contract extension, after council members were split about whether he should stay or go. His original three-year contract expires at the end of March.

But he recently signed an extension that will allow him to continue working through the end of the budget season in June, and possibly longer. If Carlee remains on the job through the end of June, he receives a $25,000 bonus.

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