Denver’s fire chief faces investigation over claiming of comp time, receiving $42,000 in extra pay

Denver Fire Department chief Desmond Fulton said Wednesday that he was following what he believed to be the department’s standards when he claimed hundreds of hours of compensatory time off — and then effectively cashed much of it in for $42,000 in extra pay over the last three years.

The chief says he supports an investigation into how he and other members of the department’s leadership tracked and used their hours and paid time off. He issued a statement to The Denver Post after his timekeeping practices were brought to light by a CBS News Colorado investigative report that aired Tuesday night.

Mayor Michael Hancock on Thursday appointed ...
Recently reappointed Denver Fire Department Chief Desmond Fulton is facing an investigation into his practice of claiming extra time off as compensation, or comp time, when carrying out his duties. (Provided by DFD)

The report noted that the practice of claiming comp time appeared to be in violation of Denver municipal code.

“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,” Fulton said in the new statement Wednesday afternoon.

According to TV station’s findings, Fulton accumulated more than 400 hours of extra hours, referred to as “comp time,” over the last three years. The hours were logged for a wide variety of activities that happened outside Fulton’s standard 6 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. weekday schedule, including during evenings and weekends.

A review of Fulton’s records by the station found comp hours claimed for things like attending a Denver memorial for victims of the Club Q mass shooting in Colorado Springs in November 2022. The chief also routinely logged three to four hours of comp time for attending dinners at firehouses with rank-and-file members of his department.

While comp or flex time is typically used as additional paid time off, the CBS report found that Fulton’s use of those hours allowed him to cash in unused vacation time at the end of each year.

He collected a combined $42,000 in extra pay in that fashion from 2021 through 2023.

Fulton’s annual salary increased to $230,254 from $221,398 on Jan. 1. under an annual increase in the city’s municipal code. The city’s fire chief is not entitled to compensation for overtime hours, nor are the department’s deputy chief and division chiefs, the code says.

Fulton was first appointed by former Mayor Michael Hancock in 2020 after 22 years working as a member of the department in various roles including deputy chief. New Mayor Mike Johnston, woh took office in July, announced he was renominating Fulton late last year.

The City Council approved his reappointment earlier this month.

In his statement, Fulton said Denver fire chiefs have been tracking what he called “flex time” 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,” he said.

Armando Saldate, the executive director of Denver’s Department of Public Safety, is ordering an “independent investigation” into whether the fire department’s use of flexible time off complies with city ordinances and policies, according to a statement provided by his department.

“I was unaware of this practice, which dates back to former administrations,” Saldate said. “I have issued a directive to current command staff to cease the use of Kelly/Flex time until the necessary facts are known.”

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