Current Affairs

Minneapolis Mayor loses confidence in lesbian fire chief

PinkNews Staff Writer November 28, 2006
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Minneapolis Mayor R T Rybak has called for the removal of lesbian Fire Chief Bonnie Bleskachek, saying he no longer has confidence in her ability to lead the Fire Department.

The Minneapolis Star-Tribune reports that Rybak’s announcement comes on the eve of a meeting by the city’s executive council to discuss the fire chief’s possible firing.

Rybak said in his letter that the city had reached an agreement in which Bleskachek will not contest her removal.

The paper reports that Bleskachek’s lawyer, Jerry Burg, said that Bleskachek would still be a fire-fighter, although she would be demoted, and she would receive a settlement payment, if the City Council approves the deal.

Rybak’s spokesman, Jeremy Hanson, said the mayor’s recommendation only concerns Bleskachek’s removal as chief, and mentions nothing about a demotion.

A city investigation, which is ongoing, has determined that the department gave preferential treatment to lesbians or those socialising with them. The city has spent more than $410,000 on the investigation, legal settlements and compensation of Bleskachek during her paid leave, which began in March.

Burg has told the AP the claims against Bleskachek were baseless.

Rybak sent his letter to four council members who sit with him on the executive committee. The panel’s recommendation is the first in a multistep firing process.

“Ms Bleskachek is aware of my recommendation and has agreed not to contest any actions by the Executive Committee to remove her from the appointed position of fire chief,” Rybak’s letter said.

Since last March, four members of the fire department have sued Bleskachek separately. Three lesbian fire-fighters alleged discrimination and retaliation by Bleskachek, the first openly gay fire chief of a major US city.

Earlier this month, a male fire-fighter sued Bleskachek and the city, alleging that he faced discrimination for being a heterosexual man in the department.

According to the Pioneer Press, lawsuits filed by two of the women were settled by the city for $94,000.

The Star-Tribune reports that the full City Council could take up Bleskachek’s removal as soon as Friday.

© 2006; All Rights Reserved.

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