Fire chief should step down

A city panel recommended Bonnie Bleskacheck should be fired.

She’s been sued four times in the last year for alleged sexual harassment and discrimination, on paid leave since March and the mayor and city council members say she has to go. Its time for her to step down.

Bonnie Bleskachek began as Minneapolis fire chief with much initial support from Mayor Rybak. Suits were filed against her for playing favorites, retaliating against a former partner, showing unfairness against employees and pursuing unreturned romantic interests. The city settled some cases and is moving to settle the others, which angered Bleskachek because she wanted the cases to go to court so she could tell her side of the story.

One lawsuit involves a former partner of the fire chief’s, who claimed Bleskachek invalidated the results of a test for her to be promoted to battalion chief because the fire chief’s current partner did not pass the test. That firefighter received $69,000 and a guaranteed promotion. Another firefighter claimed Bleskachek threw out the results of her battalion chief test because she didn’t approve of the fire chief’s current relationship. That firefighter received $29,000 and a backdated promotion. The other two suits involve the fire chief pursuing an unwanted romantic relationship with a female firefighter 10 years ago and discriminating against a firefighter for being a heterosexual male.

Last week, the executive committee, consisting of Rybak and four council members, rejected a deal that would give Bleskachek more than $40,000 and require her to return to battalion chief. The money was supposed to make up for money lost from the switch in positions. Instead of accepting the deal, the committee suggested starting the process of firing her. Bleskachek’s lawyer said “She won’t go quietly.” So far, Minneapolis has spent $410,000 on investigations, legal settlements and compensation to Bleskachek.

As the first openly lesbian firefighter to achieve such a rank in a major city, and as the leader of a fire department that is nationally known for being a leader in diversity, Bleskachek could have done so much.

Instead, she has cost the city money, tarnished the reputation of a pioneering fire department and built up barriers instead of breaking them down.

It’s time to step down, Bleskachek. Do the right thing.