Patrick Firman resigned as sheriff on Oct. 14 after a reign over the city’s jails that included a man dying in the department’s custody and a woman giving birth behind bars with no help from doctors. The next day, he began his new job as a data analyst with Mayor Michael Hancock’s office.
Hancock appointed Firman to what became a four-year stint as sheriff. After Firman’s resignation, Hancock said he has “weathered criticism, fair and unfair.” Hancock also appointed him to the newly created position, meaning there was no application process.
There’s nothing irregular about the situation, according to Mike Strott, a spokesman for the mayor’s office.
“If we have a department head who is leaving their department position but we still feel like they can bring value to the city by using their skills, then we will utilize their skills,” Strott said.
Mary Dodge, a criminology professor at the University of Colorado Denver, called the move “cronyism.”
“I don’t know him so I don’t want to say terrible things about anyone, but he obviously lacked a great deal of leadership skills,” Dodge said. Firman is no longer in a leadership position, but Dodge said that doesn’t make a difference.
“Making up jobs for you friends — cronyism — is not right,” she said. “But in fact maybe people are immune to this idea in politics and we’ve lost sight of that and for some time in the Hancock administration has lost sight of that. People just shrug their shoulders and say “that’s politics.”
Officials did not announce the appointment. The said the mayor typically doesn’t announce staff appointments beyond the chief of staff and communications director.
Strott pointed to Penny May, who headed Denver Human Services until 2015 when the mayor reassigned her to his deputy chief of staff position. May had come under fire for her welfare division, which endured state reviews following children dying and falsification of records, according to the Denver Post.
Also according to the Post, May’s appointment was announced, unlike Firman’s.
Firman makes $160,000 a year as a data analyst — about $34,000 less than his salary as sheriff.
“One of Patrick Firman’s accomplishments as sheriff was his work around innovation and utilization of complex data to measure reforms,” said Theresa Marchetta, Hancock’s communications director. “We have a number of initiatives, like Denver’s Opportunity Index and other cross agency needs that rely on successful measurement, smart deployment of technology and creation of a central data hub.”