Politics & Government

Council member LaWana Mayfield: Council must explore discipline of colleague Claire Fallon

City Manager Ron Carlee
City Manager Ron Carlee

Charlotte City Council member LaWana Mayfield said fellow council member Claire Fallon has been a “constant negative impact” on the City Council and city, and Mayfield has asked her colleagues to explore whether they could discipline her.

Mayfield sent the email to council members Sunday, after Fallon had sent an email that was highly critical of the city and the Fire Department. Fallon also asked that Fire Chief Jon Hannan be fired.

In her email, Mayfield said council members must meet to discuss a “censorship” of Fallon. Council members, however, cannot censor a fellow council member, who are elected. They could vote to censure Fallon, which would be a formal rebuke.

In 2010, council members considered censuring former council member Warren Turner because of allegations he had spoken inappropriately to staff members. That motion failed in a 6-3 vote.

Fallon said Thursday she hasn’t done anything wrong.

“I am doing my job,” Fallon said. “That’s what I was elected to do, to protect people. I am not doing anything that wasn’t my job, and maybe it should have been her job too.”

Fallon added: “Are you going to put tape across my mouth?”

Fallon and Mayfield are both Democrats. But they have little in common other than political party, and they are often on different sides of issues.

Mayfield couldn’t be reached Thursday for comment.

The latest dispute between the two appears to be focused on Fallon’s views on the Fire Department, and her working relationship with a member of the Firefighters Association.

In November, Fallon asked that Marty Puckett, the vice president of the association, help her with her job. Puckett said he hasn’t been paid and he has helped Fallon only when he is not working. Fallon has said he is an intern.

A week ago, Puckett forwarded to media members and council members an email written by Fallon.

The email was about the case of Crystal Eschert, a former fire investigator who was fired by the city in 2014 for what the city said was an offensive Facebook post. Eschert said she was retaliated against for being a whistleblower.

The association and Fallon support Eschert.

“It is time for (Fire Chief Jon Hannan) to leave, which I have numerous times asked Mr. Carlee to do, and restore the morale to the Fire Department and instill transparency and responsibility to the public of this council,” Fallon wrote. “And, if we do not follow through, we are as guilty as those who choose not to act.”

The email prompted a response from City Manager Ron Carlee.

A day later, he told Puckett that he can no longer work as an adviser and assistant for a city council member, saying their working relationship is “unlawful.”

The reason, the manager said, is that under Charlotte’s form of government, council members supervise only three employees: the clerk, the attorney and the manager.

The city manager is responsible for all other city employees.

The city’s charter states that neither the mayor or council members “shall direct the conduct or activities of any city employee.”

Puckett said Thursday he was only helping Fallon in his spare time, when he wasn’t working for the city. He said he believes it’s his right to engage in the political process, so long as he not working on city time.

Fallon, a Democrat, is one of the most outspoken council members. She has few allies on the 11-member body.

She said she asked Puckett to help her because she wants someone she can trust.

“I don’t trust anyone up there (at the Government Center),” she said. “They spin everything. They give you half-truths, and they lie. I wanted someone who knew the city better than I do, who I could trust.”

She added: “He worked on his own time, and he has never worked on the city’s time.”

The issue touches upon a gray area of how city government works. For instance, the mayor is assisted by two staff members, who take their day-to-day orders from the mayor. But those two employees officially report to the city manager.

Last month, Carlee told council members that he wouldn’t seek a contract extension. His decision came after a number of council members said privately they did not want to renew his three-year contract, which expires at the end of the month.

Council members have subsequently decided to keep Carlee as manager through the budget process, which ends in June.

Steve Harrison: 704-358-5160, @Sharrison_Obs