County declines to charge former Falcon Heights fire chief

The Ramsey County Attorney's Office on April 4 declined to press charges against a former Falcon Heights fire chief who'd been arrested two days prior for alleged threats.

Rich Hinrichs, 37, was fired from the top fire department post by the Falcon Heights City Council on Feb. 27. 

Then-Mayor Peter Lindstrom said ahead of the firing that Hinrichs had violated city respectful workplace policies with angry outbursts and disrespectful language targeted at other city employees. He also said the fire official had shared city information with other entities, also in violation of city policy.

"I find the performance of the chief has been unsatisfactory, to me," Lindstrom said before the council's unanimous vote to terminate Hinrichs.

Hinrichs was arrested at his Roseville home the evening of April 2 for making terroristic threats reportedly against city officials. 

Ramsey County Sheriff's Office spokesman Roy Magnuson said in an email statement that Hinrichs "voluntarily came out of his residence and cooperated with deputies."

The decision not to charge him, county attorney spokesman Dennis Gerhardstein said in an email, was "due to insufficient evidence to support the allegation of Threats of Violence beyond a reasonable doubt."

"If new evidence is presented by law enforcement, we will revisit our decision," Gerhardstein said.

Falcon Heights firefighters who were at the meeting during which Hinrichs was fired didn't hide their displeasure with the council's decision. Some also said that angry outbursts came with the stressful job.

Council members that night did not shy away from discussing the possibility of losing personnel over the firing.

Speaking April 4, City Administrator Sack Thongvanh said there'd been no resignations since Hinrichs was fired. "We haven't received even one."

"I believe that we have a very professional team, and a team that has a wealth of knowledge and experience in firefighting," he added.

Thongvanh said he plans to discuss with the council during its April 10 work session how to handle the vacancy at the top of the city fire department. Options include hiring an interim chief or having the department captains and the city administrator operate as a leadership team.

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