By Brian Maass

DENVER (CBS4) – A female Denver firefighter who was spied on by male Lt. Daniel Flesner says after the incident, a district chief told her she needed “thicker skin on this job.” She says another department chief tried to start a GoFundMe page to pay Flesner’s legal costs.

“Polarizing this crime was destructive to me,” wrote the female firefighter in a four page letter sent to Denver Fire Chief Desmond Fulton and obtained by CBS4.

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CBS4 is not using the woman’s name since she was the victim of sexual harassment. In May, Denver City Council approved paying the woman, who is still on the job, $100,000 in an Equal Employment Opportunity Commission settlement.

Daniel Flesner (credit: CBS)

She is also suing Flesner in civil court according to state court records.

In March 2019 she found a hidden camera in her fire station bedroom. The motion-activated camera was disguised as a phone charger and was plugged into an outlet in the woman’s bedroom. A jury later convicted Flesner of planting the camera. He was found guilty of criminal invasion of privacy and attempt to commit tampering with physical evidence.

Investigators said they found video on the camera of the woman undressing in her fire station bedroom. Flesner was sentenced to two years probation and other conditions. He resigned from the fire department shortly after the incident. Flesner has maintained what happened was a joke that went wrong.

In the undated letter to Fire Chief Desmond Fulton, the woman wrote, “After this happened I did not deserve to have a chief try to start a GoFundMe page for Flesner’s legal bills,” she wrote. “I did not deserve to have the district chief from that night sit me down and tell me how I needed ‘thicker skin on this job,’ and that, ‘Dan is hurting too.’ Or to have a captain say ‘You shouldn’t be that girl who sues Dan,’ and that there are two sides to every story.”

She told Chief Fulton, “I understand that this was difficult; many people thought they knew him (Flesner) and never expected this behavior from him, but polarizing this crime was destructive to me.”

Asked about the letter, Fulton provided a written statement Tuesday to CBS4.

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“The victim is a valued member of the Denver Fire Department, and I cannot fully express my heartbreak for the pain she suffered as a result of former Lt. Daniel Flesner’s criminal actions. I have a zero-tolerance policy for any type of harassment at the DFD, and I, along with the entire DFD leadership, are focused and committed in our efforts to ensure our female firefighters feel equality, safety, and respect. I appreciate the suggestions the victim brought to my attention and look forward to working with her to ensure that all of our staff feel supported.”

In her letter, the woman went on to write, “From the moment this happened at Station 9 I have felt let down and betrayed by essentially every institution that is supposed to be protecting me.”

(credit: CBS)

She offered several suggestions for how the fire department could change policy to address situations like this in the future and how the department could change its culture. She went on to say she believes the internal investigation into what occurred was flawed.

“There is proof that enormous amounts of evidence were deleted in the days following his departure from the firehouse before his arrest and the seizure of his phone as evidence. That left a very small amount of evidence for my case and affected the outcome and his charges. Honestly, I have not felt a true sense of justice in this entire process,” she wrote.

Attorneys for Flesner previously provided CBS4 the following statement:

“A lack of good judgment coupled with a terribly bad joke cost Mr. Flesner his career and much of his firefighter reputation. After a weeklong jury trial, he was acquitted of any sexual intention related to his actions and acquitted of tampering with evidence. The jury heard testimony from a forensic technology expert who completed a thorough review of all of Mr. Flesner’s electronic devices and found that there was no evidence he deleted any data, including the singular subject video. The city chose to pay the woman firefighter involved in this case $100,000.00. During the course of the trial all efforts to determine if the female firefighter had a financial motivation, which would tend to bias her testimony, were blocked from the jurors’ consideration. Her attorneys and the district attorney kept the jury from hearing the evidence. Mr. Flesner had no sexual intention or motive in his actions. He apologized for his misbehavior.”

 

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In her letter, the female firefighter wrote, “I want to take this devastating, tragic and unconscionable incident and use my loss to improve the department.”

Brian Maass