City Council backs appeal in high-profile whistleblower lawsuit

City Council backs appeal in high-profile whistleblower lawsuit

CHARLOTTE, NC (Steve Harrison/The Charlotte Observer) - A majority of the Charlotte City Council has voted to appeal the Crystal Eschert whistleblower judgment against the city.

In May, a jury awarded Eschert, a former fire investigator, $1.5 million. The jury found the city fired Eschert in retaliation for her complaining about the safety of renovations at a building that was to house her unit. Soon after the trial, Jon Hannan retired as chief of the Charlotte Fire Department.

The city said she was fired for making what it said was an offensive Facebook post made in 2014 after the Ferguson, Mo. protests and riots.

This summer, the city asked U.S. Chief Judge Frank Whitney to overturn the verdict. He refused.

The city did, however, get a partial victory. Whitney awarded Eschert the cost of her attorney's fees of more than $600,000, but also reduced the amount of the jury's award to $464,538. The judge said the jury had incorrectly filed out the award form by allocating damages to Eschert multiple times.

Whitney said Eschert could re-try the case to win her full $1.5 million in damages. She declined.

The city filed for the appeal Thursday to the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals. Council members met in closed session about the appeal twice in the past two weeks.