Adam McCoyAdam McCoyApril 2, 20183min490

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 McCoyAdam McCoyMarch 26, 20182min433

A business improvement district, or BID, can mean a big economic boost for a commercial area.

Over three decades, the Cherry Creek North BID has allowed the area to “compete nationally and internationally, to advocate for its constituents, to finance and build its own streetscape improvements,” Cherry Creek North BID President and CEO Julie Underdahl said in a press release touting a new joint initiative with City Hall.

Denver wants to help bolster emerging city business improvement districts with a new fund aimed at providing the last bit of money organizations need to launch a district. So, Mayor Michael Hancock and local business leaders announced the $200,000 Denver BID Revolving Loan Fund late last week.

“BIDs have a transformative impact on their communities, which is why I’m creating this new funding opportunity to provide the financial assistance that emerging BIDs need to get across the finish line and begin making improvements that better serve their customers and communities,” Hancock said in the news release.

A BID is a collective of business owners in an area or neighborhood who agree to an additional tax or fee to aid in development and promotion of the commercial area.

The new program will focus on organizations that have an initial financial investment and are ready to create a BID in the near future, but need help with funds for creation efforts. Organizations will have to have matching funds to be eligible for a city loan.


Adam McCoyAdam McCoyMarch 19, 20182min1683

If the White House is softening its approach on consumer protections, Denver will explore how to counter predatory financial practices at home, city officials say.

Denver Mayor Michael Hancock’s office announced the Consumer Financial Protection Initiative last week. The program will focus on combating elder financial abuse, notary fraud, wage theft, predatory lending and predatory housing practices.

“Through this new initiative, we are ramping up our efforts to help Denver residents know their rights, understand their choices as consumers and achieve greater economic mobility for themselves and their families,” Hancock said in a statement. “This new initiative is a big step toward the comprehensive system we need to provide financial relief for our residents.”

The city argues recent federal actions have threatened to weaken important consumer protections, so it is exploring ways to protect residents from predatory practices. President Donald Trump and regulators he appointed have reportedly taken a far less aggressive approach to consumer protection than their predecessors, the Washington Post reports.

The city began work to establish the initiative in late 2017; Denver will work on forming a central hub for consumer protection complaints this year. The hub would connect consumers with agencies that aid in resolving complaints and point to other resources as well as collect data to inform future efforts.


Adam McCoyAdam McCoyMarch 15, 20184min428

“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 McCoyAdam McCoyMarch 5, 20184min1889

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 McCoyAdam McCoyMarch 5, 20183min2044

As part of an ongoing campaign to combat the high cost of housing in Denver, Mayor Michael Hancock is suggesting throwing more money into the city’s affordable housing fund.

That news according to Denverite’s Andrew Kenney, who reported on Friday that Hancock has “asked city staff to look for more money soon after the city revamped its housing policy in 2016.” Created in fall 2016, Denver’s fund has promised an estimated $150 million will be dedicated to affordable housing efforts, including development and preservation, over a decade.

The fund operates on a mix of property tax revenue and a one-time fee on new development, according to the city, but the city’s Department of Finance and Office of Economic Development is exploring other avenues to generate more money, Denverite reports. The news outlet also noted new polling shows affordable housing is at the front of residents’ minds.

In fact, as the city considers more funding, the new polling shows a majority of residents would support a hike in property or sales taxes to address the issue, the Denver Business Journal reports. The poll, conducted by Strategies360 on behalf of advocacy non-profit All In Denver, surveyed 404 likely voters in Denver about the top issues in the city.

With housing topping the list, Denverites also identified education, homelessness, cost of living and transportation in that order as top issues in Denver. The survey noted that 73 percent of poll respondents said they would support a sales tax increase to address affordable housing, according to the Business Journal.

The survey also suggested Denverites aren’t satisfied with the city’s affordable housing efforts, with 66 percent saying officials are doing too little to address homelessness and housing.


Adam McCoyAdam McCoyJanuary 12, 20183min1232

Surging rent and an apartment glut have spawned a new Denver pilot program providing housing subsidies to low-income Denverites.

A news report from the Wall Street Journal notes that the new program called LIVE, Lower Income Voucher Equity, will help “house teachers, medical technicians and others” in “sparkling new, high-end rental apartments with amenities like gyms, roof decks and sometimes even pet spas.”

In lieu of letting vacant apartments sit empty, why not create housing opportunities for Denver residents, Denver Mayor Michael Hancock told the WSJ.

The city has long wrestled with affordable housing as the cost of living has soared, gentrifying many out of Denver neighborhoods. Denver has been working with developers to build new affordable housing units, often buying land to sell to developers interested in building affordable housing. Denver has also launched programs like the Temporary Rental and Utility Assistance Program aiding Denver households experiencing a housing crisis including a rent increase or loss of a job.

Under the new program, single Denverites making between $23,500 to $47,000 a year and families of four making $33,500 to $67,000 a year are eligible, according to Denver7. Those found to qualify would then receive a voucher to pay 30 to 35 percent of their income in rent for two years. The program would also place about 5 percent of monthly rent in a savings account.

The program currently has funding to subsidize 400 units, while 100 units have joined the pilot program thus far. LIVE, starting later this month, will be funded by the city, employers and charitable foundations, according to the WSJ. Denver anticipates spending roughly $500 a month subsidizing rent for a single person and $900 for a family.


Adam McCoyAdam McCoyJanuary 8, 20184min721
U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions (washingtonexaminer.com)

With Denver reaping millions of dollars annually in sales tax revenue from recreational marijuana, and Colorado’s market representing a billion-dollar industry, Denver Mayor Michael Hancock called a shifting federal approach toward states with legalized marijuana irresponsible.

“This is a billion-dollar-plus industry here in Colorado, (with) thousands of jobs, and what this move has done is create uncertainty with regards to investors, business owners and employers,” Hancock said in an interview on CNBC’s “Closing Bell” on Friday.

“All this move does is demonstrate how out of step the Attorney General (Jeff) Sessions is and the administration is with the rest of the country,” Hancock said.

Hancock joined the furor over the U.S. Justice Department’s announcement on Thursday it would discontinue the Obama-era, hands-off approach toward states that have legalized cannabis.

U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions withdrew guidelines that essentially limited federal prosecutions of marijuana businesses or individuals operating legally under state law despite the federal prohibition, Politico reports. In last week’s announcement, Sessions said prosecutions would be left up to individual U.S. attorneys.

The policy change would be felt in the local marijuana industry through impacts on business investment and sales tax revenue more so than an enforcement crackdown, Hancock said.

“We’ve already had conversations with our attorney general, as well as our acting U.S. attorney, who clearly have said they’re not going to change anything with regards to the industry here in Colorado,” Hanckock told CNBC.

Colorado’s cannabis industry racked up $1 billion in sales in the first eight months of 2017, generating more than $160 million in taxes and fees. About two-thirds of Colorado’s more than 500 marijuana dispensaries are located in Denver, and the city estimates it collected about $18 million to $20 million in sales-tax revenue in 2017 — about 3 percent of the city’s budget — from legal sales of recreational cannabis. Hancock said the money is allocated toward funding law enforcement and youth education on cannabis.

Denver Mayor Michael Hancock on Trump marijuana policy: It has given uncertainty in this billion-dollar industry from CNBC.


Adam McCoyAdam McCoyNovember 17, 20173min516
Denver Mayor Michael Hancock. (Colorado Statesman file photo)

Denver Mayor Michael Hancock took to the national airwaves this week, boasting about the speed and efficiency of his city government and talking up the city’s bid for Amazon HQ2.

The Mile High City’s chief executive was featured on “CBS This Morning’s American Voices” series, which examines how national issues are playing out at a local level.

The five-minute segment focused on Hancock’s Denver Peak Academy, which trains employees to improve how government runs and boasts saving the city roughly $22.5 million. It also touched on the city’s affordable housing efforts including a $150 million housing fund, which through developer fees and increased property taxes will support new or preserve existing affordable housing, and renter eviction assistance. The “CBS This Morning” crew was most impressed by the 20-minute wait times at the Department of Motor Vehicles, down from 80 minutes.

A smiling Hancock also talked Denver traffic, growing up in a large family with nine siblings and overcoming adversity.

“There’s a line in one of Will Smith’s movies, simply, ‘When you want something, go after and get it, period,’” Hancock said. “I don’t know where that resiliency came from within me. Maybe it was watching my mother try to raise 10 children as a single parent, going through the difficulty that she went through that really gave it to me to say, ‘We’re going to fight. I don’t want to come back here, and I want to make her proud.’”

On Amazon, Hancock said, “We’re going to put our best foot forward. At the end of the day, we’re going to continue to be Denver regardless of what happens.”

Watch Hancock’s full interview here.