By Brian Maass

DENVER (CBS4)– Three Denver Sheriff Department deputies have agreed to accept 18-day suspensions after they were caught repeatedly leaving work early while still being paid. In each case, the deputies were being paid time-and-a-half overtime during the shifts when they left their posts.

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“I don’t think that’s right,” said Denver Sheriff Patrick Firman, when CBS4 talked to him in April about the ongoing investigation into deputies leaving while they were still on the clock.

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“If you are not going to be here, you shouldn’t be paid,” said Firman, before the disciplines were handed down.

Simon Crittle, a spokesperson for the Denver Sheriff Department, said Firman’s feelings remain the same.

Denver Sheriff Patrick Firman (credit: CBS)

According to disciplinary letters obtained by CBS4, Deputies Jon Bruno, George Rodriguez and Jharquis Scott were caught repeatedly leaving their posts at Denver’s City and County Building one to two hours before their shifts ended at 8:30 p.m. in April and May 2016.

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Deputies had been warned in writing a year earlier not to leave prior to the end of their shifts. All three deputies are assigned to the court services division of the Denver Sheriff Department.

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Bruno was disciplined for leaving work early nine separate days, Rodriguez was caught on eight days and Scott was caught 10 separate days. Surveillance cameras inside the City County building helped catalog what the deputies were doing.

All three conceded the early exits, but as Rodriguez told investigators, it was “common practice” for deputies to head home early if there wasn’t much going on at the courthouse.

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“There’s nothing going on, so we leave,” said Rodriguez.

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Bruno said leaving while on the clock “Always went on there.”

He said being allowed to leave early was a way supervisors “reward you for hard work” and he said it helped “boost morale.”

Denver Sheriff Patrick Firman (credit: CBS)

But when questioned by internal affairs investigators, Bruno conceded “In retrospect now, it wasn’t a good idea.”

Scott also said departing early was based on “past practice.”

One of their sergeants, Sgt. Gabrielle Velez, told investigators, ”This has always been a typical thing for the courthouse.”

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She said allowing deputies to head home early is a way of evening things out for other days they work late but don’t bill for overtime.

”We give them some love on the end of their shift, yeah,” said Velez.

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Velez and numerous other deputies are also under investigation for leaving work early according to sources, but they have not yet been disciplined. Velez did not respond to previous inquiries from CBS4.

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CBS4 Investigator Brian Maass has been with the station more than 30 years uncovering waste, fraud and corruption. Follow him on Twitter @Briancbs4.