Former Mint Hill Volunteer Fire Dept. Chief under investigation

By Amanda Waters
amandawaters@minthilltimes.com

The Town of Mint Hill received a federal subpoena May 24 and is cooperating with federal agencies in an investigation of recently resigned Fire Operations Director, Jeremy Russell.  “We are absolutely not under investigation as a town,” said Town Manager Brian Welch.  “The town is actively cooperating with them in their review.”
The Board of Commissioners passed a resolution May 24 authorizing the town staff, town attorney and members of the board “to meet with investigating agents and attorneys for the Federal Bureau of Investigations and the United States Attorneys Office.” According to the resolution they could inform investigating agents and attorneys of  “(1) the suspension, disciplinary action and later resignation of Mint Hill Fire Operations Director Jeremy Russell, (2) the reasons for and circumstances surrounding such personnel action and events, (3) the Town’s findings regarding Mr. Russell’s activities engaged in during his prior employment with the Town and as a volunteer with the Mint Hill Volunteer Fire Department, and (4) any additional information requested by the Federal Bureau of Investigations and/or the United States Attorneys Office in connection with their investigation of Mr. Russell and/or any related individuals and entities.”
Russell was hired as a paramedic June 13, 1994.  The town promoted him to Fire/EMS Operations Director April 1998.  He received a disciplinary suspension April 13, 2012, and resigned the same day. The Board of Commissioners held several closed sessions last month regarding an unspecified personnel matter.
The board passed a resolution April 12 “to inform the Mint Hill Volunteer Fire Department Board Chair and other members of the Board of Directors of the suspension and other disciplinary action involving Mint Hill Fire Chief Jeremy Russell and the reasons for such personnel action.”
The board also passed a resolution May 2 to make the MHVFD Board of Directors and counsel for the MHVFD aware of “the Town’s findings regarding Mr. Russell’s activities engaged in during his prior employment with the Town and as a volunteer with the Mint Hill Volunteer Fire Department.”
The FBI declined comment on its involvement with the investigation of Russell.
When asked what Russell is being investigated for, Welch said he was unable to comment and directed questions to the U.S. Attorneys Office, which also declined to comment.
Chairman of the MHVFD Board of Directors, Jerry Mullis, said “Our mission here at the Mint Hill Volunteer Fire Department is to be responsive to the investigation, assist in any way we can, and go on in our mission of providing fire protection and emergency medical and transport to the people in our fire district.”
The fire department held a board meeting June 4, ending with a two-hour closed session where they discussed personnel and insurance matters and the investigation.
The fire department has experienced several personnel changes since Russell resigned.  John Phillips is the new fire chief, Tommy Moore is the assistant chief in charge of fire operations, David Leath is the assistant chief in charge of EMS operations, and the chief introduced three newly-hired firemen at last night’s meeting.  There were changes in the board, too, as Henry Allison stepped down as the vice chair and member of the board.

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MH Police warn residents of “grandparent scam”

The Mint Hill police are warning residents to be aware of a new scam called the “grandparent scam”. The scam involves a scammer calling elderly residents and pretending to be a grandson in another county and asking for a wire transfer of money. Three cases have already happened this year. The police department warns residents to be on the lookout for suspicious calls such as these.

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Lions Club to hold yard sale

The Lions Club and Bi-Lo are hosting a yard sale Saturday, June 2 from 7-11 am.  Parking spaces can be rented at Bi-Lo for $10, and vendors can set up as early as 6 am.
“I’m proud to say that our relationship has been a strong one and they have continued to work tirelessly on our behalf,” said Lions Club president Stephen Smith. The Lions Club has partnered with Bi-Lo on Lawyers Road for the last five years.  He credits much of the success of these events to the hard work of Bi-Lo managers Jennell Smith and Tonya Ivey.
“The Mint Hill Lions are so blessed because of the relationship with Bi-Lo.  It is through their efforts we can give back to the community,” said Lions Club member Rich Ferretti.
The partners work together multiple times a year.  The chicken and dumpling dinner was held in the fall, and the annual car show will be held June 9.
The Lions Club collects funds for various causes throughout the year.  They have provided Christmas presents, clothes, and food to local homeless children, sent 20 special needs children from Independence High School to Camp Thunderbird, and they recently awarded two scholarships to Independence students.
About the yard sale, Smith said “I think it will be a good turn out… Mint Hill is a good community.  If you say that you have a need they step up and help you out.”

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Library plan presented to Mint Hill Board

Carol Hull presented the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Library Citizens Committee report to the Board of Commissioners last Thursday.  She is a member of the committee, a team of citizens with professional experience in real estate, process improvements, information technology, and Mecklenburg County government.
The goal of this committee was “to review the functions and utilization of the main library, consider the feasibility of consolidating, downsizing, or relocating the functions of the main library” to another site.  The committee met monthly from November 2011 to February 2012 to investigate library functions and ways to save money. Continue reading

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Clear Creek DAR celebrates 20 years

Clear Creek Militia Chapter of the National Society of the Daughters of the American Revolution celebrated its 20th Anniversary on April 14, 2012.  The Chapter was organized on April 18, 1992 by Mrs. William Kenneth Baucom (June Medlin) to recognize Mint Hill’s participation in the American Revolutionary War.  Among the charter members are Shirley Phillips West (Mrs. Lewis A. Jr.) and Amelia Robinson Ford.
The Clear Creek Chapter meets the second Saturday of each month at the Morningstar Lutheran Church on Idlewild Road.  The DAR promotes patriotism, education, and citizenship by working with veterans and schools.
A Genealogy Workshop will be held on June 2 from 1-4 pm at the Mint Hill Library by Jeanne McClary and NC State Genealogist.
Pictured above are the members of the Clear Creek Militia Chapter NSDAR along with Mrs. Judith C. Parker, District III Director.  Past Regents are:  June Baucom, Shirley West, Amelia Ford, Roberta Hart, and Janet Westbrook.  Johnsie Bickett is current Regent.

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Billotto brings culinary expertise to Mint Hill Arts

Heidi Billotto demonstrated her culinary skills at Mint Hill Arts. She arranged vegetable bouquets and provided a hands-on learning experience.

Heidi Billotto brought her culinary expertise to Mint Hill Arts May 22.  The food writer, reviewer, instructor, and caterer offered a free lecture and demonstration on culinary arts.
Surrounded by heaps of limes, oranges, onions, peppers, and mushrooms, Billotto cut curves and lines into produce to produce beautiful dinner party decorations.  Zigzagging her knife, she displayed blooming onions, blossoming peppers, tulip carrots, and rose tomatoes.  The bouquet was presented in a watermelon basket.  Cucumbers were sliced into leaves to add to the vegetable foliage.
Billotto dished out useful food tips as she sliced and arranged.  For example, purple peppers turn green when cooked.  Mushrooms should not be washed, but instead wiped with a paper towel, as they absorb water and will brown prettier when not soaked.  The oil in onions reacts with oxygen to make eyes water, and most of the oil is concentrated in the root end.  To avoid tearing up in the kitchen, cut off the top of the onion, peel it, and throw away the root end.  To present a bloomin’ onion and avoid the strong smell, soak the onion in cold water before presentation.  When cutting designs, as Billotto did with swirls in her mushroom caps, odd numbers look better than even numbers.  Try five swirls instead of four.
Billotto entertained her Mint Hill audience as she instructed them.  She expertly provided culinary lessons, patiently assisted her students, and provided some laughs along the way.
Billotto offers lessons in her home as well as private sessions.  She is featured in the local magazine Charlotte Living.

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