Cape Coral, Fla. -
The new Cape Coral Fire Chief has suddenly resigned. A week ago Friday, City Manager John Szerlag released an 83 page report summarizing an investigation into Chief Tim Hayes which cleared him of almost all of the allegations made against him and Szerlag said the new chief is staying. So why did he quit?
All that was released was that Hayes quit for "personal reasons". After last Friday's report was released we looked into some things, then went to interview the chief about them. He sat down and answered some tough questions Tuesday.
The investigation was done only because a former fireman accused new Hayes of two things, one was that the Public Information Officer, Michael Heeder, was hired because he and Hayes are good friends. Hayes says not so.
Hayes: "All I did was pick the phone up and say, Mr. Heeder there's a job that may be available down here. You should apply for it if you're interested. I don't know where you're at in your life. I hadn't talked to him in over three years since he retired from Gainesville.
Culbreth: So, he's not really a friend? No, he's not really a friend. Just a former collegue from Gainesville."
The second accusation was that Hayes hired Heeder instead of two women and paid him more. That's true. Heeder is making $51,166 a year and his highest education is an Associates Degree. Of the two women who applied he offered the one with a Masters Degree $42,544 and the one with a bachelors $40,511. Hayes says he was more interested in experience than education. "I just decided that it really wasn't worth it to me to have a trainee person come in here," added Hayes. "Didn't have anything to do with females or anything like that it was just the person that I needed for this job."
Heeder has 30 years experience as a public information officer and as a fireman.
Hayes: "He knows how to market and brand that fire department and what they do and how they do it."
Culbreth: "Is he also a fireman?"
Hayes: "He's also a firefighter, yes sir."
Culbreth: "So he could put out a fire?"
Hayes: "Yes sir, sure could."
Culbreth: "Could the other two people put out a fire?"
Hayes: "Uhhh, I don't, I don't believe they could, no sir."
Culbreth: "Did they have any, let me rephrase that, did they have any experience or qualificiations that shows they could put out a fire?"
Hayes: "No sir, they did not. Not that he's gonna be out there putting out fires but he knows what it takes to be able to get that done.
City manager John Szerlag released this statement: "Even though our recent investigation found no cause to relieve Chief Hayes of his duties, Tim decided it would be best for his family if he tendered his resignation. I accepted Tim's resignation with regret."
We asked for an interview with Hayes but haven't heard back. Meanwhile, Szerlag has appointed Battalion Chief Donald Cochran to serve as Interim Fire Chief until further notice.