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Can Denver Mayor Hancock weather sexual harassment allegations?

Author: Adam McCoy - March 5, 2018 - Updated: March 5, 2018

Denver Mayor Michael HancockDenver Mayor Michael Hancock apologizes in a video statement for his inappropriate text messages. (Screen grab via YouTube)

Last week, two-term Denver Mayor Michael Hancock admitted to sending inappropriate text messages to Denver Police Detective Leslie Branch-Wise when she was an officer serving on his security detail in 2012.

Denver7’s Tony Kovaleski first broke the story , airing out the slew of text messages from Hancock to Branch-Wise, six years ago.

“You look sexy in all that black,” he texted after seeing Branch-Wise on TV at a Denver Nuggets game.

Hancock quickly responded in a written statement and video, writing in part “During Detective Branch-Wise’s time on the security team, we became friends, but my text messages in 2012 blurred the lines between being a friend and being a boss.”

“But let me be clear — my behavior did not involve sexual advances or inappropriate physical contact,” Hancock said. The mayor has reportedly also sent a handwritten apology to Branch-Wise and a memo to city staff.

But Branch-Wise, in the Denver7 piece, said she was a victim of sexual harassment and pointed out that Hancock, her boss, was showering her with inappropriate texts. “Who do you tell if he’s at the top,” she asked.

Hancock is said to be jockeying for a third term as Denver mayor next year, but Democratic insiders have pointed to him as a potential challenger to U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner in 2020 or a gubernatorial candidate in 2022, Colorado Politics’ own Joey Bunch reports.

As the mile high city’s principal executive, Hancock has garnered national attention for navigating a city that has become a showcase for its recreational marijuana commerce and growth.

But should Hancock resign in the wake of the sexual harassment allegations? Colorado Independent’s Mike Littwin wrote in a column this week:

“I’m not ready to call for his resignation. There’s no allegation of physical contact and, to this point, there is only the one charge, six years old, that he harassed anyone. But that doesn’t mean this should be over,” Littwin writes. “First, Hancock has to concede that what he did was, in fact, sexual harassment. If he doesn’t understand that, he doesn’t understand the issue. And that’s unacceptable. And then there’s the even more critical point — whether or not this was a one-off.”

Others have called for Hancock’s resignation and police organizations like the Denver Fraternal Order of Police and Denver Police Protective Association have called for officials to be held accountable for their behavior.

“While we are aware that this isn’t the first time the Mayor’s name has been associated with sexual scandal, we consider the allegations against Mayor Michael Hancock very serious. We urge the people of Denver to be adamant that our City officials are held accountable to the highest standard for their behavior and actions,” DPPA wrote in a statement according to Westword.

In statements, Councilwoman Debra Ortega called the allegations disappointing while Council President Albus Brooks said “the Mayor has rightfully apologized and I trust that he and his administration are taking the appropriate steps to learn from this lesson so it won’t happen again.”

“In this situation, Denver City Council has no legal authority to take any action on behalf of this employee or against the Mayor,” Brooks continued.

Adam McCoy

Adam McCoy

Adam McCoy covers Denver-area politics for Colorado Politics.