FBI investigates former Mint Hill fire chief

Town staff alert officials after finding “irregularities” in emails

by Kara Lopp

Mint Hill’s former Fire/EMS operations director and chief of the Mint Hill Volunteer Fire Department is the target of a federal criminal investigation.

According to public records released by the town, Jeremy Russell is under investigation by the FBI and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for “activities engaged in during his prior employment with the town and as a volunteer with the Mint Hill Volunteer Fire Department,” according to town records. The town would not elaborate on the nature of those activities.

In a closed session May 24, town commissioners passed a resolution authorizing town staff, the town attorney and town commissioners to talk with investigators and other attorneys with the federal agencies after the town received a federal subpoena. The town is not being investigated, Town Manager Brian Welch said. Another resolution passed by commissioners May 2 allows the town’s findings and subpoena to be released to the volunteer fire department board, according to town records.

Russell, 37, resigned from the town April 13 just hours after being placed on “disciplinary” suspension, Welch said. He was employed by Mint Hill for 17 years and his salary was $79,684, according to town records. Russell resigned from his post as fire chief of the volunteer department May 10.

After Russell resigned, staff found “irregularities” while reviewing the contents of his town-issued email account, Welch said, and called the FBI. The town declined to release a copy of the subpoena.

Shelley Lynch, spokeswoman with the FBI’s Charlotte division, said federal subpoenas aren’t public records and the agency doesn’t release information about ongoing investigations.

Russell could not be reached for comment by press time. Concerns that the town owes Russell vacation pay are still under investigation, Welch said.

“Services won’t be diminished in any way” during the investigation, Welch said. The town has named EMS Assistant Chief David Leath as interim Fire/EMS operations director, and the volunteer board appointed Deputy Chief John Phillips to fire chief.

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