Former Hastings Fire Chief Mike Schutt signed off on what became a botched plan to use a firetruck ladder to transport a generator off the Hastings Police Department roof, a report shows.
An investigation report on a June 4 accident shows the generator tipped over, damaging the roof and generator. Schutt, who had been the chief since 2007, resigned Aug. 28.
"Decisions that were made in the incident were demonstrative of poor judgement and that concerned all of us due to the cost, the danger and the safety issues involved," said Hastings City Council member Lori Braucks.
The report, detailing Schutt's role in the incident, was completed July 1 by Minneapolis law firm Ratwik, Roszak & Maloney, P.A., and preceded settlement negotiations between Schutt and the city.
According to the report: Schutt approved use of the firetruck to lift the generator and directed department firefighters to do so; he knew for several months that a crane was scheduled to lift an air conditioner off the roof at the same time, which could have been used to lift the generator; and he did not discuss whether or not the firefighters were qualified to use the truck in that manner.
Schutt told the investigator that he thought using the ladder truck to lift the generator would be a "good training opportunity.” He also said he was unaware of other situations where the ladder truck had been used for similar purposes.
The report detailed that some city staff involved did not believe the ladder truck should be used to lift the generator, despite having the capability.
"Moreover, the facts support a finding that Chief Schutt’s order to have firefighters remove the generator off of the Police Department roof using the Fire Department’s ladder truck raised safety concerns and demonstrated a lack of professional judgment," the report read.
In an email, Interim City Administrator Julie Flaten said that the roof cost about $313 to repair, but that the city had not yet received other costs associated with the generator incident or the investigation. She said she couldn't comment beyond the report or settlement terms.
City Council members placed Schutt on administrative leave during an Aug. 19 meeting. Last week, the council unanimously approved his resignation.
After the Aug. 19 meeting, City Council directed the labor attorney to negotiate with Schutt and his attorney on terms of his resignation — a move that made details of the incident public, said City Council member Joe Balsanek.
"I felt that his decision to negotiate was in essence [a message] ... that the public can decide whether or not it was a good thing," he said. "I give him credit for that."
Balsanek was the only council member to vote against the decision to negotiate.
“I thought it was going to get very complicated … that’s why I had voted against it.”
The terms detailed that the city will pay Schutt $11,107.17 each month until May 2020 and receive health insurance through the city until the end of that month.
John Townsend, assistant fire and EMS director, was named interim fire chief.
The June incident was not the first time Schutt’s leadership and decisions had been questioned by officials. The department has faced high turnover during his tenure as well, Braucks said.
In 2017, he was placed on administrative leave after he faced allegations of workplace bullying, patterns of intimidation and threats to demote staffers.
After a review of the allegations was completed in November that year, City Council members voted 4-3 to uphold a grievance against him, but without further discipline.