Chief finalist distorts work record

One of three men who was a finalist for the Fort Dodge fire chief position appears to have misrepresented his background by claiming to have work experience and education that he does not possess.

Michael Heim, the fire chief of West Burlington, made assertions about his background in information submitted to city officials and in public statements that representatives of the Kansas State Fire Marshal’s Office and Western Illinois University said Thursday are not correct.

Heim had claimed he was the deputy state fire marshal in Kansas and that he had three bachelor’s degrees.

”He is not in consideration for the job any longer,” City Manager David Fierke said Thursday evening. ”After the interview, I decided he wasn’t the right candidate for the job so I didn’t go through the process of verifying his credentials. I hadn’t discovered any irregularities.”

The Messenger began investigating Heim’s background after receiving an anonymous tip Thursday afternoon, before it was known that Heim was no longer in the running for the job.

An email message was sent to Heim asking him to call the newspaper to discuss the matter. He sent a short reply stating only ”not a problem,” but he did not call.

Heim was one of three veteran firefighters introduced as the final candidates for the chief’s job during a May 8 reception at the Blanden Memorial Art Museum, 920 Third Ave. S.

During that session, he said he had been the deputy state fire marshal in Kansas. He made the same claim in his resume, and Fierke said Heim presented himself as a ”high ranking official” in the fire marshal’s office.

However, he never had the title of deputy state fire marshal, according to Brenda Schuette, the human resources director for the fire marshal’s office.

She said he was a fire protection specialist for his entire career with the agency. He was employed there from 2000 to 2008.

Heim said he had three bachelor’s degrees from Western Illinois University in Macomb, Ill. He said one was in general studies, one was in fire administration and the third was in fire prevention technology.

Jodi Pospeschil, a public information specialist for the university, said he actually received one degree: a Board of Governor’s degree in general studies awarded in 1989.

Fort Dodge Fire Department Capt. Steve Hergenreter and Kent Hulett, a former fire chief now handling building permits and fire protection matters in Belvidere, Ill., are the remaining candidates for the fire chief’s job. Fierke will select one of them and submit them to the City Council for approval.

Current Fire Chief David Luers will retire by the end of July.