Friday, April 7, 2017

Crystal Eschert v. City of Charlotte In Case You Missed It

From the local paper:

In a matter of weeks, a Charlotte jury will decide whether Crystal Eschert is a wronged whistleblower or a Facebook troll. 

On Thursday, U.S. District Frank Whitney cleared the way for a jury to hear Eschert’s claims that she was unfairly fired from her investigator’s job with the Charlotte Fire Department for two Facebook posts and in retaliation for her whistleblower complaints about the condition of a department building. 

The case, which is scheduled for trial early next month, features a slew of conflicting issues, legal and otherwise:


In rejecting a City of Charlotte argument that Eschert’s lawsuit should be thrown out, Whitney says those and other questions should be answered by a jury. He ruled that Eschert’s complaint, which alleges First Amendment violations, wrongful discharge, sexual discrimination and other claims, can proceed. 

The legal fight dates back to the fire department’s efforts to control employee posts on social media. In 2013, the department adopted a policy that prohibits “simultaneously” identifying oneself as a department employee while displaying materials that could “potentially be perceived as offensive, including ... material that offends or harasses on the basis of race, sex, religion, color.”

In a matter of weeks, a Charlotte jury will decide whether Crystal Eschert is a wronged whistleblower or a Facebook troll. 

On Thursday, U.S. District Frank Whitney cleared the way for a jury to hear Eschert’s claims that she was unfairly fired from her investigator’s job with the Charlotte Fire Department for two Facebook posts and in retaliation for her whistleblower complaints about the condition of a department building. 

The case, which is scheduled for trial early next month, features a slew of conflicting issues, legal and otherwise:

▪ Eschert’s right of free speech vs. the demands a public job places on personal behavior;

▪  Whether Eschert violated a department social-media policy or was singled out for ignoring the chain of command; 

▪ Whether she rightfully lost her job for making racially insensitive comments or was a victim of political correctness. 

In rejecting a City of Charlotte argument that Eschert’s lawsuit should be thrown out, Whitney says those and other questions should be answered by a jury. He ruled that Eschert’s complaint, which alleges First Amendment violations, wrongful discharge, sexual discrimination and other claims, can proceed. 

The legal fight dates back to the fire department’s efforts to control employee posts on social media. In 2013, the department adopted a policy that prohibits “simultaneously” identifying oneself as a department employee while displaying materials that could “potentially be perceived as offensive, including ... material that offends or harasses on the basis of race, sex, religion, color.”

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On Aug. 20, 2014, about 10 days after the shooting of Michael Brown set off riots in Ferguson, Mo., Eschert wrote this post on her Facebook page: 

“White guy shot by police yesterday near Ferguson ... Where is Obama? Where is Holder? Where is Al Sharpton? Where are Trayvon Martin’s parents? Where are all the white guys supporters? So is everyone MAKING it a racial issue? So tired 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.”

A week later, Eschert shared a post on the same page that blamed President Barack Obama for feeding the “racial tension and cultural divide” that had contributed to the deaths of hundreds of police officers since Obama took office. 

Though both posts were made on Eschert’s non-public Facebook page, they were sent to police and fire officials by a person named Linda Havery, who said the posts were stirring controversy in the community and on the Web.

The Observer has not been able to identify a Linda Havery living in the Charlotte area, and Eschert and her attorney believe the emails were either sent by someone in the fire department or some other part of city government. 

Eschert was fired that fall.

She claims the real reason for her termination was her role as a whistleblower in raising questions about the quality of renovations at a new arson unit center on North Graham Street. Eschert did not notify her bosses of her concerns. Instead, she and her father-in-law, Ray Eschert, a politically connected Ballantyne businessman, contacted City Council member Claire Fallon. 

Fallon toured the building with then City Manager Ron Carlee and fire department official – the same day someone created the Linda Havery profile on Facebook, and Eschert made her first post. 

Attorney Sara Lincoln, who is representing the city, told Whitney that no evidence has been produced that ties Havery to the city or proves that the fire department leaders even knew Eschert had complained about the arson building. 

Nor can Eschert argue that the Facebook posts were a pretext for her firing and then claim that her First Amendment rights were violated, Lincoln said.

She told Whitney that Eschert’s comments on Facebook undermined her government responsibilities and were posted “when racial tensions in Charlotte and the United States were running extraordinarily high,” and may have jeopardized her co-workers’ safety.

Eschert’s attorney, Meg Maloney, countered that her client, at the time of her Facebook posts, was her department’s youngest employee who didn’t realize that her post – in particular her use of “thug” – may have been offensive to African Americans “because she’s not an African American. But there is nothing in the post that says she’s not open to understanding.”

In court and in earlier filings, Maloney has argued that Eschert was singled out for firing when other fire department employees, including top managers, received lesser punishment for similar Facebook comments. 

In the end, Whitney decided that Eschert’s claims had enough merit to move forward. He foreshadowed his decision earlier in the hour-long hearing when he interrupted Lincoln while she was arguing that the suit should be dismissed. 

“Do I have to take your word for this or should a jury decide?” he asked. “That’s a lot for me to swallow.”


Read more here: http://www.charlotteobserver.com/news/politics-government/article143149419.html#storylink=cpy

In rejecting a City of Charlotte argument that Eschert’s lawsuit should be thrown out, Whitney says those and other questions should be answered by a jury. He ruled that Eschert’s complaint, which alleges First Amendment violations, wrongful discharge, sexual discrimination and other claims, can proceed. 

The legal fight dates back to the fire department’s efforts to control employee posts on social media. In 2013, the department adopted a policy that prohibits “simultaneously” identifying oneself as a department employee while displaying materials that could “potentially be perceived as offensive, including ... material that offends or harasses on the basis of race, sex, religion, color.”


Read more here: http://www.charlotteobserver.com/news/politics-government/article143149419.html#storylink=cpy

Read more here: http://www.charlotteobserver.com/news/politics-government/article143149419.html#storylink=cpy

24 comments:

Anonymous said...

Hope she wins

Anonymous said...

Wow, a judge with the integrity to oppose the City of Charlotte.

When the jury sees the evidence, she will win.

Anonymous said...

The CFD has lost most lawsuits brought against them. If people knew HALF of the crap some CFD employees do, get arrested for (some repeatedly), get ABSOLUTELY no punishment, keep their jobs, they would storm City Hall. Read about the investigation from an outside source regarding this. Ask around the CFD, the recommendations haven't been truly implemented, and the moral within is horrible.

CMPD DIV 12 said...

CMPD has fired officers for posting on Facebook. Maybe this could start a class action against the city

Anonymous said...

Who have they fired and what kind of posting?

Anonymous said...

I have a very similar story. I was a District Court Judicial Assistant for seven years. I became aware of quite a bit of unethical conduct by a District Court Judge (some of which she tried to blame me for) and I threatened to out her to the CO. I had no intention of doing so, but wanted to make her aware of the fact that elected officials should do what they are elected to do, and that she is accountable to the citizens of Mecklenburg County. On Sept, 20 of last year I was written up for this (okay, maybe I deserved that), but then on Oct. 13, I was demoted and my pay was cut by $6500 for that same action. On Jan. 17 of this year I was dismissed for the very same action (I think?), even though this particular judge resigned effective 12/31/16 with two years left of her term on the bench. It is total whistleblower retaliation, and that is very obvious as I was not given a reason for my dismissal, but when I asked, I was only told "we can't tell you." What is so profoundly disturbing is the lengths that the Mecklenburg County Trial Court Administrator's Office will go to to cover up unethical conduct by a judge. Cedar, if you are interested in my story, I have detailed notes, a detailed timeline, and plenty of other documentation, but I am not sure how to give you my contact info confidentially.

Ms. Eschert and Ms. Maloney - Best of luck!

Anonymous said...

Charlotte Observer doesn't give a crap about corruption here. Neither do any of the local 'news' stations. That makes them complicit. Cedar is willing but busy, so if he can't, please post again.

Anonymous said...

"Cost so far: $168,000 for lawsuit"

To defend a lawsuit they know is indefensible.

And that's before the settlement that will ultimately have to be paid.

When do we tax payers get to sue the idiot, corrupt city management and the idiot, corrupt city council and mayor who allow them to do this instead of firing the fire chief and fixing the problems reported by Crystal Eschert?

Fire Hagemann. Fire Hannon. Carlee is gone--with a bunch of our money. Fire the new guy who's not stopping this, Marcus Jones.
Vote the rest out.

Anonymous said...

p.s. Expect that $168,000 to jump since the actual trial hasn't even started yet

Anonymous said...

9:28, Thanks - will do.

Anonymous said...

With all the covers ups and unethical conduct by everyone within CFD and CMPD. I wouldn't work for any of these asshats. Even if I was offered a million dollars. Hopefully soon those within CFD and CMPD will fall.

Anonymous said...

At some point city management will spend less time on ethical standards posters and more time on applying them. How bout some fire chief from Norfolk? Sooner rather than later. Come on Mr Jones.

Anonymous said...

Anon: May 1st @ 11:31 pm. Good luck on that happening anytime soon.

Anonymous said...

Have you heard something that makes you think Jones or Norfolk are any better?

Anonymous said...

What is the status of the trial? It started Monday, should be over by now.

Anonymous said...

still going on and last week was interesting to say the least. Was able to be in the peanut gallery to watch. So civil right man John Barnett and NAACP Prez Mack both testified on behalf of Ms Eschert in support. Them city folks looked a bit clueless on a response. Especially when it was claimed Thug be against us in the black community. When Thug got nothing to do with the black community but everything to do with a criminal. That woman city using for a attorney be one angry cat. All she be doing is complaining and throwing objections. It's be pretty obvious they trying to hide them lies.

Anonymous said...

Why is there zero coverage in the local news of this trial? Stupid. Collusion.

Anonymous said...

Hannan can't leak anything good to Crump. Wsoc has given it coverage but they have covered this from the start. Guess they waiting on a verdict.

Anonymous said...

media around here "waits for a verdict"when they should be reporting before there's a problem and should be reporting to make people aware. of course the city keeps getting away with this crap. the media waits until it's over, shrugs their shoulders, and walks away. they call themselves reporters.

Anonymous said...

At this point I really don't care who wins. The amount of money spent to defend the CFD command group would have went a long way to help Kerrick. It's not if you are wrong or not if they will pay your defense team. It's if if you work for a living or ever have the city doesn't know you. The firefighters I have talked to this week sure got a gut check on that reality on this thing. At least Romo left, you have to give him credit for that!

Anonymous said...

I told you the CFD never usually win any lawsuit brought against them! There is one (maybe two) chiefs that should be fired. If THE chief leaves, the other will not be able to survive without the protection of his umbrella.

Anonymous said...

April 28, 2017 at 6:47 PM Did you write to Cedar?

Anonymous said...

April 28, 2017 at 6:47 PM Did you write to Cedar?

That post is from Janet Norwood. She has posted similar comments on other sites. Please follow up on your statement with action. Bring all of the corrupt politicians= tax thieves down.

Anonymous said...

I have noticed that, too. Don't want to poach - - so if you're reading this *and* Cedar took a pass, I'd be interested to hear what you have to say if you would like to write to citynewswatch@gmail.com