#MeTooCity of DenverHot Sheet

How would probe of harassment allegations against Denver mayor work?

Author: Adam McCoy - April 2, 2018 - Updated: April 2, 2018

Hancock-Radio-Studio-W.jpg
Denver Mayor Michael Hancock. (Photo by Ernest Luning/Colorado Politics)

Will the Denver City Council launch an investigation into inappropriate text messages that Mayor Michael Hancock sent to a female police officer six years ago? We won’t have an answer until later this week at the earliest, Denver City Council President Albus Brooks says.

In late February, 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 2012.

The Denver council met for three hours in closed session on Tuesday discussing the merits of an investigation, at the request of Branch-Wise.

Denver7’s Tony Kovaleski first broke the story last month, 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 what power does the City Council have related to an investigation? What would a probe look like? For one, only city voters can remove the mayor from office, or any elected official for that matter, under the city’s charter, according to a FAQ document included in Brooks’ statement Thursday.

“In Denver, like most cities and states, one branch of government does not have the power to remove or discipline an elected official serving in another branch of government,” the FAQ said.

The City Council does have the power “to investigate any Department of the City and County and the official acts and conduct of any officer thereof, and may compel the attendance and testimony of witnesses and the production of books and documents,” the document reads.

But what would an investigation actually probe and would it be independent?

If the council voted to investigate, it would likely request “the Executive Branch” of city government hire a third party to conduct the probe to ensure it is unbiased, the FAQ reads.

An investigator would then seek an answer to whether the alleged conduct occurred and not whether the conduct “rises to the level of sexual harassment which is a legal definition to be determined by a court of law.”

“This is why most sexual harassment investigations end with the conclusion that it is more likely than not that an action occurred,” the document said.

Adam McCoy

Adam McCoy

Adam McCoy covers Denver-area politics for Colorado Politics.