Charlotte opens retaliation investigation into Fire Department whistleblower firing

Crystal Eschert
Crystal Eschert

Charlotte City Manager Ron Carlee said Monday that he would hire an “independent third party” to investigate an allegation that the city retaliated against an employee for complaining about what she believed to be unhealthy conditions in a new building to house the arson task force.

Crystal Eschert, a former Charlotte fire investigator, was terminated in late September. She said she was a whistleblower and the Charlotte Fire Department retaliated against her. The city has said that’s not true and that Eschert was fired for an offensive Facebook post.

In a statement released Monday night, Carlee said he “will not tolerate retaliation against an employee who makes such a report, and the city cannot afford to have employees second guess whether or not to make such a report.”

Carlee added that the city has found “no evidence” of retaliation against Eschert.

The manager, however, said that Eschert’s Facebook post “is in conflict with our responsibility to serve all members of the community.”

In late summer, Eschert wrote on her Facebook account:

“White guy shot by police yesterday near FergusonWhere is Obama? Where is Holder? Where is Al Sharpton? Where are Trayvon Martins parents? Where are all the white guys supporters? So WHY is everyone MAKING it a racial issue?!? So tired of hearing it’s a racial thing. If you are a thug and worthless to society, it’s not race – You’re just a waste no matter what religion, race or sex you are!”

Carlee said a city employee can’t label some people as a “thug” or “worthless to society” or a “waste.”

He said doing so is “inherently discriminatory.” His office upheld her firing on Nov. 18.

Eschert said last week that she used the word thug to describe people who break the law, and that the term didn’t have a racial context.

Eschert, who had worked for the city since 2010, said someone associated with the Fire Department created a fake Internet persona in an attempt to discredit her. She said the fake person sent emails about her post to Fire Chief Jon Hannan and police Chief Rodney Monroe, and said her post was being discussed nationwide.

Eschert’s attorney, Meg Maloney, said she has found no evidence that the private Facebook post had become controversial.

In his statement, Carlee said that “a number of concerns have been raised about management in the fire department,” and that Hannan recently asked Carlee for a third-party review. Carlee said his office will oversee a management review of the department over the next 30 days.

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