Brooklyn Park’s fire chief is stepping down from a position he has held since 2008, driven out by what some city leaders have described as a “culture of hostility.”
In a memo sent Thursday to city staffers, City Manager Jay Stroebel cited the “unique dynamic” between Fire Chief Ken Prillaman and some City Council members, and said it would benefit the city’s “overall culture” to accept Prillaman’s resignation at Monday’s council meeting.
“I am not making this recommendation without significant thought,” Stroebel wrote. “Chief Prillaman is well respected in our organization and is the longest tenured member of our department directors’ team.”
If the resignation is accepted, Prillaman’s last day in the office will be Aug. 11, though his resignation won’t be official until Sept. 2. The chief declined to comment ahead of Monday’s meeting.
Mayor Jeff Lunde said Friday that Prillaman is not being forced out. “The chief’s decision to take the buyout is his decision,” Lunde said. “He is not being fired.”
But the mayor added: “We are here because of the culture of hostility created by a council member.”
Several city officials say the allegations involve Council Member Mark Mata, who has worked as a paid on-call firefighter for nearly 20 years. Some allege he has micromanaged the chief’s work.
“He has basically made Chief Prillaman’s life a living hell,” Council Member Rich Gates said.
Mata said he disagrees that there is hostility between the chief and some city leaders.
“My job as a City Council member is to set the budget and be responsible and accountable for the citizens’ taxes,” Mata said. “I can only do that if I am given factual and truthful information.”
As part of the separation agreement, Prillaman would receive six months of wages and benefits, as well as $35,000 for “his complete release of any claims against the city,” documents show.
Todd Seitz, the city’s deputy fire chief, would act as interim chief after Prillaman’s department, according to Stroebel.