Cottage on South Tejon

The cottage on South Tejon Street that Bill Sulzman has occupied for 33 years recently was sold by Ithaka Land Trust to a Denver area firefighter, who, with help from local firefighter Ryan Royal, plans to conduct repairs and rent to others after Sulzman is relocated.

UPDATE:

CSFD spokesman Mike Smaldino says via email, "We cannot comment on any personnel matters when it comes to discipline.... We will not comment on nonfire department-related issues regarding employees and their outside employment."

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On Jan. 29, a resident who is likely to lose his affordable rental home in a flipping scenario wrote to Colorado Springs Fire Department Deputy Fire Chief Randy Royal seeking information about Royal's son's role in the plan.

Bill Sulzman, 82, is one of many residents housed in properties formerly owned by Ithaka Land Trust. The cottage where he lives on South Tejon Street was sold in October to Drew Gaiser, a West Metro Fire Protection District firefighter and developer. Gaiser and CSFD firefighter Ryan Royal, Randy Royal's son, “have a joint venture to work together” on renovating the properties, Gaiser told the Indy.

Read our full report here.

"Just wanted you to be in the know on this issue," Sulzman wrote to Deputy Chief Royal on Jan. 29. Royal has been chosen to become fire chief on March 5. "I am about to be displaced from my home of 33 years and I'm not too happy about it. On January 6 I found out what happened and it involves 2 firefighters, one of whom is your son. I don't assume anything illegal has happened but there are questions.... I'd like to know what you think."

Sulzman then included links to the Indy's cover story, published Jan. 27, and a follow-up blog posted that same day. Sulzman pays $250 a month rent for his cottage, one of 10 properties recently sold by Ithaka, formed in 1981 to provide low-income housing. Some have been renovated and the rent tripled by the new owner. Ithaka plans to build a new low-income housing complex at 301 and 305 S. Union Blvd., former site of El Paso County Public Health.

Royal wrote back, saying:

"Thank you for your note, you [sic] concerns are appreciated. However, I am not at liberty to discuss this issue nor the actions firefighters engage in away from their work for our agency, provided that their activities are lawful and don’t affect their performance as members of this organization. I will remain close to this situation and ensure those stipulations are being met."

What Royal fails to mention is that his son, Ryan, hasn't submitted an Outside Employment Form regarding his house renovation activities. The only such form the city produced in response to the Indy's Colorado Open Records Act request was a form he filed in 2012 and updated in 2014 regarding Irons and Ladders LLC, a company he formed with another firefighter to provide training to other fire agencies.

The Indy reported in its Jan. 27 issue about Royal's Outside Employment Form.

The city's policy stops short of requiring firefighters to seek permission in advance to do outside work, as the Colorado Springs Police Department's policy requires. But it does require firefighters to make their outside activities known to leadership.

Specifically, the policy states, "New employees shall complete the Outside Employment Form with their new hire paperwork and all employees will be responsible for updating the form anytime a change is made in their outside employment status."

It's worth noting that Royal's forms were signed by supervisors, indicating some degree of approval.

We've asked Chief Royal to comment on his response to Sulzman, whether he's aware there was no form on file for his son's house renovation work produced by the city in response to the Indy's CORA, whether Ryan Royal has since filed such a document, whether there is a disciplinary action in the works and if not, why not.

We will report back when we hear something from Chief Royal.

Senior Reporter

Pam Zubeck is a graduate from Emporia State University. She worked at the Tulsa Tribune before coming to Colorado Springs, where she spent 16 years at the Gazette and in 2009 joined Colorado Publishing House.