http://www.kstp.com/article/stories/S20837.html?cat=1

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) - Embattled Fire Chief Bonnie Bleskachek has been removed from her post without severance pay and accepted a lower-ranking job in the Fire Department, Mayor R.T. Rybak said Friday.

The city's Executive Committee - made up of the mayor and four City Council members - approved a deal that stopped short of firing Bleskachek to avoid further costly court action, Rybak said. The City Council then voted 8-5 to approve the deal. Bleskachek, the nation's first openly lesbian big-city fire chief, won't contest the action, the mayor said.

"She will be completely and permanently stripped of ever holding leadership or management in the city," the mayor said. "She has been severely and significantly demoted, and her pay will be cut by $40,000."

Bleskachek, 43, was hailed as a trailblazer when she was promoted to the top job two years ago, but her tenure has been troubled.

Three female firefighters sued, alleging various acts of discrimination and sexual harassment. Two of the lawsuits were settled, but a male firefighter brought another lawsuit last month, alleging that he was denied advancement because he is male and not gay.

A city investigation is still under way. This summer, a separate investigation by the city's Department of Civil Rights into a 2003 complaint by a male firefighter - brought when Bleskachek was a battalion chief - found it "likely" that the department gave preferential treatment to lesbians or those who socialized with them.

The city has spent more than $410,000 on the investigation, legal settlements and compensation for Bleskachek since she went on paid leave March 22.

Rybak also said Bleskachek apologized. He attorney, Jerry Burg, didn't immediately return a phone call from The Associated Press.


(Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

Think if it was the other way around, a chief would still be employed by the city?