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Minocqua Town Board fires town employee

February 14, 2020 by Brian Jopek

In the wake of a complaint filed by a Minocqua resident, the town of Minocqua on Feb. 3 fired a full-time employee. 
Mark Heil, son of town supervisor Sue Heil, was moved from part time status to full time only a week before on Jan. 27. 
Town clerk Roben Haggart said Heil had been working part time for the town “just plowing” beginning in October 2018.
“He was kind of an on-call type employee,” she said. 
Heil said Monday that was the case as he filled in working on town equipment at times outside of snow plowing when there might be a shortage of personnel, such as during deer hunting season. 
“He mostly just plowed in the winter,” Haggart said.
Just a couple days after Heil was moved from part time to full time, Haggart said he plowed someone’s driveway with a town front end loader.
“We had a complaint,” she said. “Mark (Pertile) investigated it.”
Pertile is the town’s public works director — Heil’s supervisor. 
The driveway in question is on Church Road, the complaint, Haggart said, coming from a neighbor who’d noticed town equipment being used on the driveway. 
“He came in to pay his taxes and asked ‘Since when does the town start plowing driveways?’” she said. “We were like ‘We don’t.’”
Haggart said Heil met with her, Pertile and town chairman Mark Hartzheim on Jan. 31 and asked about it.
“That was an open session,” she said. “It was the second time he was supposed to do some roads and he was way off route and doing stuff on his own.”
Haggart said Heil’s mother, town supervisor Sue Heil, hadn’t participated in any of the discussions regarding her son, something Mark Heil also shared with The Lakeland Times on Monday.
“Sue had said if it (Mark being her son) was a factor, she’d step down from the town board,” Haggart said. 

Letter from Pertile 
A letter to Mark Heil from Pertile dated Friday, Jan. 31, 2020, stated two days earlier, on Wednesday, Jan. 29, Heil was requested by a property owner to plow open an unplowed private driveway.
“Mark’s work directive that day was to remove excess snow at intersections of town roadways and cul-de-sacs,” Pertile wrote. “Mark Heil made the decision to plow out (the) driveway against policy.”
He also said in the letter Heil hadn’t informed Pertile he’d plowed the private driveway on Church Road. 
Pertile said in the letter the town had received the complaint on Jan. 30 and he called Heil just after 1 p.m. and asked him if he’d plowed a private driveway and was told by Heil he had but “only at the end of it at the roadway.”
Pertile stated in the letter he informed Heil his actions “were not acceptable” and would be discussed the next day. 
Before that, however, Pertile went to the residence on Church Road and said in the letter to Heil he’d found tracks from the loader 170 feet into the property. 
He took photos of the loader’s tire tracks. 
Pertile then in his letter to Heil outlined six items levied against him:
• Not following work directive. 
• Not following town policy.
• Inappropriate use of town equipment. 
• Not notifying his supervisor of the resident request and inappropriately fulfilling that request.
• Not admitting to the full extent of the violation. 
• Exceeding his authority to do work.
Heil was suspended without pay on Friday, Jan. 31 “until further notice” and told the town board was to review and recommend “final disciplinary measures.”

Final meeting
The following Monday, Feb. 3, the town board — without supervisor Sue Heil — met with Mark Heil in closed session.
There, Heil told The Times, he read a letter essentially presenting his side of the story and apologizing for his actions.
“I’m glad my own words could be present today after my request to be present wasn’t normal procedure,” Heil said in the letter. “I am sorry for the rules I have broken. I am sorry for the time that has been taken out of your days to deal with this matter. It is both an inconvenience and embarrassment to the town and for that, I am sorry.”
Heil said in the letter he’d been approached by a homeowner who’d asked him to clear the end of his driveway of furrowed snow the town’s plow had left.
“He stated that he had to do a security check on the property and needed to make it close to the garage,” he stated. “I hesitated, but after some begging and pleading, I agreed to take a look after I cleared the area I was working and was passing by. There was a decent furrow at the end, one I agreed his vehicle may not make it through nor himself walk through.”
He had been, Heil said, stopped twice earlier in the day by people to push up snow banks. 
The letter states when he told them he couldn’t do that for them, they were surprised to learn he was with the town. 
Heil said there were no markings on the loader and the driveway was previously plowed, which he said demonstrated for him damage to the property owner’s garage would be minimal.
“I decided the safest and fastest way to clear the snow was to push it into his property onto the existing pile,” Heil said. “I did not want to take any more time than was necessary and did the absolute minimum to satisfy his plea.”
Heil went on to say he’d never met the property owner and didn’t accept any financial compensation for what he did, took all the risk “with no reward” to help what he described as a “begging homeowner” in a remote area of the township while using an unmarked loader. 
He further stated he didn’t agree to the homeowner’s request out of respect for his supervisor, Pertile, or the town.
“It was purely a kind hearted gesture that I felt represented the town in a positive way,” Heil said in the letter. “There is a list of violations as a result; all by vagueness in description (that) can be applied to the situation.”
He said when he was questioned by Pertile about his actions, he “openly admitted” to the infraction and explained what he did. 
Heil said he initially omitted he pushed the snow to the bank and had told Pertile he’d removed snow.
Pertile, he said, also told him he’d had a report Heil had cleared snow up to the property owner’s garage with the loader, which Heil denied.
“I made one push straight in and back out,” Heil said. “At the time and to this moment there are policies the town has that I don’t understand. I’m not saying I didn’t know it was a bad idea to be on his property.”
He said his directive for the day was not only to clear intersections and cul-de-sacs, but also to widen roads where he deemed it necessary. 
“As I had done for most of my full time workload,” Heil said. 
He concluded by stating he’d respect whatever decision the town board was to make and made note of the different approach the town was taking with regard to his being allowed to meet with the town board on Feb. 3. 

Final letter
Following that Feb. 3 meeting, a letter containing the signatures of Pertile and Hartzheim was sent to Heil, stating after consultation with the town board, “it is our decision that your probationary status as a town employee is terminated effective Feb. 3, 2020.”
In the letter, Heil was told in the Jan. 31 and Feb. 3 meetings, it had been explained to him the “numerous reasons” for the decision.
“Chief among those concerns are your exercise of judgement in performing the job and concerns arising from your reactions and explanations when confronted about the matter,” the letter stated.
Monday, Heil said he has no plans to file a grievance against the town of Minocqua. 
“I was a probationary employee,” he said. “They had every right to terminate me.”
Brian Jopek may be reached via email at [email protected].

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