NC fire chief placed on 3-month probation for leaked memo

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) – Charlotte Fire Department Chief Jon Hannan was placed on a three-month probation following the leak of a confidential city document, the city announced Tuesday.

Hannan, who has been with the Charlotte Fire Department for 37 years, was involved in the release a document from City Manager Ron Carlee involving firefighter Marty Puckett.

“Earlier this month, I made a mistake involving the release of a memorandum from City Manager Ron Carlee that involved our fellow firefighter, Marty Puckett. I have apologized to Mr. Puckett for that mistake,” Hannan said in a statement Tuesday.

City council members tell WBTV the city manager had to do something to address this.

“We have to take that very seriously,” City Council member Ed Driggs said. “We can’t just let it pass because that’s a very sensitive area, keeping the confidentiality of the employees.”

Council member At-Large Julie Eislet tells WBTV she stands behind the manager’s decision.

“It’s on record,” Eislet said. “It’s in his file. He definitely has to demonstrate a higher level of professionalism, if it happens again – we will take a different action.”

In the March 4 document, Carlee told Puckett, an unpaid intern for city council member Claire Fallon, that he could no longer work for Fallon. Carlee said it was violating the city’s charter with the position that was a “conflict of interest and not permitted.”

According to the confidential memo, Puckett has been warned since November about his role with Fallon. The letter came just days after Puckett sent out a letter on behalf of Fallon asking that Hannan be relieved of his duties.

Fallon is a longtime critic of Hannan. Council members think there should be punishment for Puckett as well.

“In terms of ramifications of that,” Charlotte City Council member Julie Eislet said. “I will leave that up to the city manager.”

On March 3, Puckett reportedly sent an email to the mayor and members of city council from his personal email address with the subject line “From the Desk of Claire Fallon.”

WEB DOCUMENT: Read the letter from Fallon to the council

The March 4 memo, written by Carlee, was handed to Puckett. It was also sent to Charlotte city attorney Bob Hagemann and 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 received a copy of the memo from an Assistant City Manager on Friday, March 4, 2016 as I entered a meeting with her and members of the City Attorney’s office. At the conclusion of that meeting, I mistakenly understood that all topics discussed at that meeting, including the memo, had previously been made public through the actions of others,” Hannan said in a statement Tuesday.

Members of the Charlotte Firefighters Association say they are glad the city is holding people accountable for their actions.

“If the city is going to set the standard for accountability,” Charlotte Firefighters Association President Tom Brewer said. “Then we want them to hold all city employees and especially our members to the same standard that they are holding our leaders to.”

Brewer tells WBTV this episode did cause some division among firefighters. He says some were on the chief’s side, others on Puckett’s side.

“Now that the chief has taken ownership,” Brewer said. “He’s admitted that he did leak it, hopefully we can move forward.”

At the end of a city council meeting last month, Councilman Jon Autry suggested a probe regarding confidential leaks to the media to city attorney Bob Hagemann.

“I would ask this council to instruct the city attorney to investigate how this leak occurred,” Autry told council members.

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

Carlee decided to put a reprimand in Hannan’s personnel file concerning the events, on top of the three-month probationary period.

Hannan said he thanks Carlee “for his ongoing support and understanding that people can learn and recover from their mistakes.” “I have and I will, that I promise,” Hannan said.

Carlee said he respects Hannah for apologizing for the error and accepting the consequences for the violation of policy.

Copyright 2016 WBTV. All rights reserved.

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