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Denver's mayor calls for review of fire department comp time, chief responds after CBS Colorado investigation

Denver fire chief bagged hundreds of hours of comp time at memorials, parties, sports games and more
Denver fire chief bagged hundreds of hours of comp time at memorials, parties, sports games and more 05:36

Denver Mayor Mike Johnston on Wednesday called for a review of the Denver Fire Department's use of comp time by top commanders, following a CBS News Colorado investigation that aired Tuesday night.

In a written statement, Johnston said, "Denver expects our public safety work to be conducted with integrity and transparency. That's why I am calling for a review of how this practice has been used and am directing all command staff to cease this use immediately."

Denver Fire Chief Desmond Fulton Denver Fire Department

Denver Manager of Safety Armando Saldate had actually ordered a halt to the practice nearly a week ago and said there would be a full investigation.

In the CBS News Colorado report, records showed Denver's Fire Chief Desmond Fulton had racked up more than 400 hours of comp time since 2021, for attending events ranging from somber memorials for firefighters to retirement celebrations and having dinner with firefighters at fire stations. Many firefighters felt he was collecting comp time for essentially doing his job.

He was then able to use those accrued comp time hours to take time off and go on vacation, and then cash in actual vacation days at the end of each year. Records show he cashed in an average of $14,000 in unused vacation days in 2021, 2022 and 2023 for a total of about $42,000.

Fulton, who declined to discuss the issue prior to the report airing, released a statement Wednesday, suggesting that what he has been doing has been done by DFD command staff for years.

"I want my team in the fire department and our broader community to know that I've always followed what I believed were best practices to promote transparency and uphold the public's trust. Tracking Flex Time is a long-standing practice that fire chiefs have used for many years. During my transition into the Chief's appointment in 2020, I continued to follow the practice and track all activities and hours in our reporting system — a practice that has been in place for at least the last decade by other department leads. I fully support an investigation of how these hours were used and have asked that department leaders cease this practice immediately." 

Denver Fire Department Headquarters  CBS

Fulton declined to answer specific questions from CBS News Colorado.

The Manager of Safety ordered an independent investigation last Thursday of the comp time practice.

Fulton's timekeeping records indicate he worked a 6 a.m.- 2:30 p.m. shift, Monday through Friday, and anything he did outside of those hours qualified for comp time.

Copy of Fulton21 23b Redacted2 by CBS News Colorado on Scribd

So he billed for standard afternoon meetings with the Mayor, union negotiations and accrued comp time for attending community events. He reported attending 11 of Mayor Johnston's community forums in the last half of 2023, leading to Fulton claiming 44.5 comp hours for being part of the mayor's entourage.

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