Embattled Minneapolis Fire Chief Bonnie Bleskachek today was placed on indefinite paid administrative leave as the city continues to investigate complaints filed against her by Fire Department employees.
Bleskachek is also facing a civil suit by her former domestic partner, fire captain Jennifer Cornell, alleging that Bleskachek physically assaulted her and denied her opportunities for advancement in the department. The couple split up in 2002 after a six-year relationship.
Today’s action by the City Council’s Executive Committee came on a unanimous 4–0 vote, with no discussion.
Committee chair Barbara Johnson declined to comment on the action, saying only that it’s a routine process when the city is conducting an internal investigation of an employee. But this is the most high-profile incident since 2004, when Police Chief William McManus ordered an investigation of Deputy Chief Lucy Gerold, Capt. Mike Martin, and Lt. Mike Carlson related to the Duy Ngo shooting case. The three officers were suspended, but later exonerated.
Asked how long she expected the investigation to take, Johnson said, “I don’t know.”
A 17-year veteran of the department, Bleskachek in December 2004 became the first openly gay woman appointed to run the fire department in a major American city. She succeeded Rocco Forte and has earned high marks for her managing of the department until recent allegations surfaced.
In Bleskachek’s absence, Assistant Fire Chief Ulysses Seal will manage the department.