Hidden camera shows Parks Director drinking, driving city SUV
Louisville, KY (WAVE) - A Louisville city leader suspended because of hidden camera taken by the WAVE 3 Troubleshooter. Acting on a viewer tip, Toubleshooter Eric Flack caught the Director of the Louisville Metro Parks Department drinking then driving a city-issued vehicle. And as we discovered in this undercover investigation, it's not the first time drinking and driving has landed Mike Heitz in hot water.
Pull up a barstool at KT's Restaurant on Lexington Road and there's a chance you'd rub elbows with Louisville Metro Parks Director Mike Heitz.
He's got a full schedule running the parks department from his office at Joe Creason Park where he makes almost $112,000 a year. He also drives a city owned take home SUV. But after work, his take home vehicle is often parked here: in the KT's parking lot.
Where on multiple occasions our hidden camera's rolled as Heitz backed the unmarked Ford Hyrbid Escape against a wall partially concealing the city license plate. Then walked inside the bar, where our undercover photographer documented he had multiple liquor drinks and drove away.
When we confronted Heitz he admitted to drinking and then driving his take home car.
"There's a lot of events that we go to and drinks are served at different events," Heitz said. Heitz said he will drink alcohol and then drive his take home car after those events "as a lot of people do."
The city says drinking and then driving a take home car is against the rules laid out in Louisville Metro Government's vehicle usage policy. But our hidden camera's rolled as Heitz did just that on five out of six consecutive work days.
On the day we confronted him Heitz seemed unsure of how many drinks he had.
"One or two," he told WAVE 3 Troubleshooter Eric Flack.
But our hidden cameras recorded Heitz drinking three liquor drinks in less than an hour and half on that day. On two other nights we watched Heitz drink four liquor drinks in a hour and a half then get behind the wheel of his city vehicle and drive.
Our hidden cameras also captured Heitz driving his city owned vehicle onto I-64 East where Troubleshooter Eric Flack had to top 70 miles an hour just to keep up with him, before he finally turned for his home which sits all the way out past the Gene Snyder Freeway.
When asked whether he would have passed a breathalyzer if pulled over during that drive, Heitz responded "I don't know."
Heitz does know what can happen to someone caught drinking and driving. He has two DUI's, the most recent while driving his personal car in 2007 when Heitz was parks director under then Mayor Jerry Abramson.
There is no mention of that DUI in Heitz's city personnel file. in a statement, Abramson said he was aware of the arrest, ordered Heitz to alcohol rehabilitation, and took away his take home car for 30 days.
The Louisville Metro Vehicle usage policy prohibits other parks department employees from driving city cars for 4 years after they've been convicted of DUI.
When we told Louisville Metro Mayor Greg Fischer what Heitz was doing, he suspended the parks director for 30 days without pay and permanently stripped him of his take home vehicle. Fischer said he didn't fire the parks director because he was not arrested in the course of our investigation.
"There wasn't a DUI," said Fischer. "He's taken responsibility for his actions and he's suspended without pay for 30 days. And we will see where we go from there."
Heitz decided to go home after he was done answering our questions, agreeing to Troubleshooter Eric Flack's offer to call him a cab. But in the end he chose to let a close friend drive.
The Mayor's office says Heitz has decided to undergo alcohol treatment during his 30 day suspension. The city is also making all department heads with take home cars review the city's policies.
Copyright 2011 WAVE News. All rights reserved.