City of Charlotte responds to former Charlotte Fire investigator's lawsuit

City of Charlotte responds to former Charlotte Fire investigator's lawsuit

CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - The city of Charlotte has filed paperwork in federal court asking that a lawsuit filed by a former Charlotte Fire investigator be dismissed.

Crystal Eschert filed the lawsuit against the city in May following her controversial firing in 2014.

City officials fired Eschert in September 2014, claiming she violated the city's social media policy with an offensive Facebook post about Ferguson, Missouri.

Eschert says she was fired when she blew the whistle about what she claimed were unhealthy conditions at a fire department building - specifically mold in the remodeled building on North Graham Street that houses several Charlotte Fire Department units.

The investigation into Eschert's firing, referred to as the "Van Laningham Report" after its author, Allison Van Laningham, concluded that there was no conclusive evidence that Eschert's firing was retaliation. Van Laningham did not dismiss the possibility either.

A WBTV investigation shows the city of Charlotte paid roughly $304,000 for two investigations into the Charlotte Fire Department - the Van Laningham Report and a second consultant - to review the Fire Department's management system and discipline process.

In March 2015, Eschert went before the Civil Service Board to determine whether the board could hear her appeal. The board ruled that it was not in their jurisdiction to hear the appeal. She filed an appeal a month later.

According to the lawsuit filed in May, Eschert is suing for free speech violations and wrongful termination.

The city responded to the nearly 400 point lawsuit Tuesday. The document outlines the city's response to each of the accusations made in Eschert's initial lawsuit.

It asks for the lawsuit to be dismissed because Eschert "fail[ed] to establish by clear and convincing evidence that [the city] acted with evil motive or intent or reckless or callous disregard for [her]."

The filing also requests if the lawsuit isn't dismissed that it be heard before a jury and that Eschert pay the cost of the trial and the attorneys' fees for the city of Charlotte.

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