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Denver councilman calls for independent probe into allegations against Denver mayor

Author: Adam McCoy - March 15, 2018 - Updated: March 15, 2018

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Denver Mayor Michael Hancock. (Photo by Ernest Luning/Colorado Politics)

“To remove the cloud” forming over the city’s top office, a Denver councilman is calling for an independent investigation into sexual harassment allegations against Mayor Michael Hancock.

In a pointed letter sent to the mayor’s office earlier this week and obtained by Westword, Councilman Rafael Espinoza asked the city attorney to commission an independent investigation by an outside party “to delve into the matter and provide a full accounting.”

“This should be done with all due speed to ensure that voters have clarity about the conduct of the person occupying the most powerful office in Denver, before they are asked to consider who should occupy that seat,” Espinoza continued.

Two week ago, the two-term Denver mayor admitted to sending inappropriate text messages to Denver Police Detective Leslie Branch-Wise when she was an officer serving on his security detail in 2011 and 2012.

Denver7’s Tony Kovaleski first broke the story, airing out the slew of text messages from Hancock to Branch-Wise, about 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 apologized in a video and written statement. “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,” Hancock said in part.

Espinoza’s strongly-worded letter questions whether city officials were presented all the details before a 2016 settlement related to sexual harassment allegations was finalized. The $75,000 settlement stemmed from seperate allegations by Branch-Wise against then mayoral aide Wayne McDonald, and stipulated she wouldn’t file claims against anyone else in the city, Denver7 reports. But it was revealed two weeks ago that Branch-Wise was receiving inappropriate messages from Hancock around the same time the other allegations surfaced.

“Sexual harassment in the workplace – or anywhere else – is unacceptable and it is clear to me that your behavior related to Ms. Branch-Wise was indeed sexual harassment coming from the most powerful individual in the city,” Espinoza wrote. “The citizens of Denver deserve no less than answers to these questions and a full and complete accounting of your behavior and the true context of the settlement agreements in relation to your actions.”

Meanwhile, other Denver City Council members argue further investigation is unnecessary. Following a closed-door discussion on the matter on Tuesday morning, the council released a joint statement stating since Hancock and Branch-Wise agree on what happened, there is no need for a probe, the Denver Post reports.

The Post report also notes 12 of 13 council members attended the closed meeting and signed “nondisclosure agreements because of restrictions in a past city settlement that’s at issue.”

Adam McCoy

Adam McCoy

Adam McCoy covers Denver-area politics for Colorado Politics.