Politics & Government

Charlotte City Council holds closed session about leak of Fire Department memo

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

The Charlotte City Council met in closed session Monday night to discuss the leak of a confidential memo about a firefighter and whether Fire Chief Jon Hannan had any responsibility.

The March 4 memo was from City Manager Ron Carlee to firefighter Marty Puckett, the vice president of the Charlotte Firefighters Association Local 660, which has feuded with Hannan over how the department has been managed.

In the memo, Carlee told Puckett that it was “unlawful” for Puckett to work as an unpaid intern for City Council member Claire Fallon. The memo was also copied to City Attorney Bob Hagemann and Hannan.

WBTV news reported on the memo days after it was sent to Puckett.

The memo is considered part of Puckett’s personnel file, and it is not open to public inspection under N.C. Public Records Law. Puckett could release the memo, but he said he did not do that.

He has called for an investigation. At a March 14 council meeting, City Council member John Autry also urged the city to investigate the leaked memo, which he said was a serious breach of Puckett’s personnel file.

If Hannan was involved, Carlee could discipline him. That could include termination.

Prior to the closed session meeting, firefighters packed the council’s meeting room in support of Hannan.

The association has long criticized how the Fire Department is managed. Tom Brewer, president of the association, complained to the city in fall 2014 that Hannan had tried to “discredit” him by spreading rumors about him and his family. Hannan denied doing that.

A year later, the association defended former fire investigator Crystal Eschert, who was fired over what the city said was an offensive Facebook post. Eschert and the association said the real reason for the firing was to retaliate against her because she complained about the safety of construction work on a new office building for fire investigators.

Hannan denied that. Carlee hired an attorney to investigate, who said it was more likely than not that there was no retaliation.

Hannan declined to comment Monday about the release of the Puckett memo and the closed session. The city declined to comment about the meeting.

Steve Harrison: 704-358-5160, @Sharrison_Obs

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