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Charlotte Fire Chief Jon Hannan To Retire After 38 Years

Charlotte Fire Department building
Nick de la Canal/ WFAE
Charlotte Fire Department headquarters.

Charlotte Fire Chief Jon Hannan will retire at the end of August, capping off a tenure that saw both the expansion of the department and a number of scandals that nearly had him ousted.

The most costly came after a department employee was fired in 2014, supposedly for writing a racially-charged Facebook post. The employee later asserted that she was fired because she had raised safety concerns of a fire department building. The employee, Crystal Eschert, sued, and in May, she was awarded $1.5 million.

An independent review conducted in the wake of the firing found that under Hannan's leadership, there was an "environment of distrust in the Fire Department, or at least certain parts of it" and that it caused "many to believe that any infraction or departure from the desires of certain members of the command staff will result in unfair punishment targeting and retaliation."

At the time, Hannan responded by saying, "The findings of distrust and fear of intimidation do not reflect my vision for the Charlotte Fire Department."

But the charges were revived not long after. In a deposition reported on by the Charlotte Observer, then-City Manager Ron Carlee called for Hannan to be fired, saying Hannan took retaliation against a critical employee, Marty Puckett, by leaking his personnel file to a TV station, and then "lying" to Carlee about doing so.

In the deposition, Carlee wrote that the incident presented "fundamental concern about (his) ability to trust him as chief of the department."

More recently, Hannan came under fire by current employees and the Charlotte NAACP for the department's lack of minorities, especially minority women. In an interview with WFAE, Hannan said the department was making attempts to reach out minorities, but also suggested the job may simply be unappealing.

"You're going to have on a helmet some time every day," he said, "You're not going to keep your hair nice. You can't have long fingernails. You can't have colored nail polish."

Before serving as chief, Hannan initially joined the department as a dispatcher in 1978. He later served in a variety of roles before becoming chief in 2007.

In a statement announcing his retirement, Hannan addressed his employees and thanked them for their dedication.

"I am continuously amazed by what you can accomplish, every division in this organization is the best at what it does," he wrote, "I have come to realize that what I can do to move the department forward and up has been accomplished."

Hannan's last day will be Aug. 31.