Elise Schmelzer, The Denver Post
May 27–Denver taxpayers will pay a firefighter $100,000 after a former fire department lieutenant placed a secret camera in her bedroom at a fire station and recorded her changing clothes.
The Denver City Council approved the settlement Monday night after the female firefighter filed a charge of discrimination against the Denver Fire Department with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. The Denver Post is not naming the female firefighter because she is a victim of sexual harassment.
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A jury in October convicted the former lieutenant, Daniel Flesner, of criminal invasion of privacy and attempting to tamper with physical evidence. He was sentenced in January to two years of probation, therapy and a mental health screening, court records show. He retired from the department two days after the hidden camera was discovered.
“DFD leadership has agreed to take a number of steps to ensure female firefighters feel safe and respected and that individuals like Lt. Flesner are held accountable for any harm they may cause,” Kelli Christensen, spokeswoman for the Denver Department of Public Safety, said in a statement.
The changes include:
– Requiring additional annual in-person sexual harassment training for all staff, beginning in 2021
– Working with an outside entity to review fire department policies related to discrimination and harassment
– Hosting quarterly meetings between female firefighters and top department leaders to discuss ways to improve equity
Women who work for the Denver Fire Department repeatedly have said they face sexism and harassment on the job.
A group of Black women sued the department in October alleging they faced sexism and racism while working for the department. In 2019, the city paid $975,000 to settle claims by a former firefighter who said she was fired for filing sex discrimination complaints. The previous fire chief, Eric Tade, resigned in 2020 after an annual firefighters’ ball featured sexual innuendo and jokes about sex toys – for the second year in a row.
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The female firefighter found the camera – which looked like a phone charger – in her room in Fire Station 9 on March 30, 2019, after hearing a delayed echo of her voice.
She reported the camera to her supervisors and gave them the device. The supervisors then handed the camera to Flesner, who grabbed a push pin from a nearby corkboard and started jamming the pin into the camera.
Flesner later told fire department officials that he placed the camera in the room as a joke, his arrest affidavit states.
Investigators found one video of the woman changing on the device’s memory card, along with still images, the affidavit states.
The woman was the only female firefighter who worked at the station, according to a lawsuit the woman filed against Flesner on March 29. One of the firefighters who used the same bedroom while on shift told the woman he noticed the device three or four months prior, but assumed it belonged to one of the three firefighters who used the bedroom.
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“Because Defendant Flesner was able to destroy evidence it is not known for how long he had spied on Plaintiff, nor whether he shared the videos with anyone else,” the woman’s lawsuit against Flesner states.
Because of the crime, the woman “suffered severe emotional distress including post-traumatic stress disorder and sleep disturbance, and other damages and losses, including, but not limited to, emotional distress and anxiety, inconvenience and impairment of quality of life, and economic losses, including loss of income, and past, present and future medical and therapeutic expense,” according to her lawsuit.
Attorneys for the female firefighter did not return requests for comment Monday or Tuesday.
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