No council investigation of Denver Mayor Hancock on suggestive messages

Author: Mark Harden - April 2, 2018 - Updated: April 3, 2018

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

DENVER — The Denver City Council, while calling Mayor Michael Hancock’s conduct “unacceptable,” says it will not formally investigate Hancock over claims that text messages he sent to a security-team member several years ago amounted to sexual harassment.

KUSA-9News reports that that the council announced late Monday it had decided against a public investigation.

The probe had been requested by Denver police Detective Leslie Branch-Wise, who has spoken publicly about suggestive text messages she received from the mayor in 2012.

The messages commented on Branch-Wise’s appearance and dress.

“You look sexy in all that black,” he reportedly texted Branch-Wise after seeing her on TV at a Denver Nuggets game. In another text, the mayor told her: “You made it hard on a brotha to keep it correct every day.”

Hancock has apologized for the texts.

The council has been deliberating for weeks whether to conduct an investigation. The Colorado Fraternal Order of Police, representing city officers, has called on Hancock to step down over the matter.

Here is the statement that Council President Albus Brooks issued late Monday:

“Detective Leslie Branch-Wise requested the Denver City Council to publicly investigate whether Mayor Michael B. Hancock’s texts to her six years ago constituted sexual harassment.  Each Council Member agrees that Mayor Hancock’s conduct was unacceptable. Tonight, based on extensive additional legal advice, Council is unable to grant Detective Branch-Wise’s request for an investigation. Since we are not the judicial branch, we are unable to make a legal conclusion about the Mayor’s conduct and there are no disputed facts. In 2013, Detective Branch-Wise waived any opportunity to pursue the legal process where these types of legal conclusions are typically made. Furthermore, the request for an open investigation would be problematic under state law confidentiality requirements.

“Council is deeply concerned that there is not a process to make a complaint against a Denver elected official for sexual harassment. Council will lead by example and adopt a clear policy and process for reporting and investigating complaints against a Council Member. We call on the Mayor to follow suit and adopt consistent policies to meet the community’s demand for accountability.

“Our attorney will communicate with Detective Branch-Wise’s attorney on this matter.”

The mayor’s office issued this statement late Monday:

“From the start, Mayor Hancock has been open, honest and transparent about this matter. He has taken full responsibility for his inappropriate text messages from six years ago and has apologized to Detective Branch-Wise as well as his family and the entire community. Mayor Hancock is committed to learning and growing from all of this while continuing to lead the city forward.”

Hancock is in his second term as mayor. If he chooses to seek a third term, he would stand for election in May 2019.

> CLICK HERE for background on Hancock’s situation from Colorado Politics’ Ernest Luning.

Mark Harden

Mark Harden

Mark Harden is managing editor of Colorado Politics. He previously was news director at the Denver Business Journal; city editor, online news editor, state editor, national editor and popular music critic at The Denver Post; and an editor and reporter at newspapers in the Seattle area and San Francisco.