Suzanne StaiertSuzanne StaiertMarch 22, 20187min4310

I don’t know many women who haven’t experienced harassment, but until recently I hadn’t met any who filed a complaint or spoke publicly. Why is this? Because there’s no upside; most people don’t care. Every workplace has a process to handle complaints, but there is little interest in culture change. Six years ago when I contemplated filing a sexual harassment complaint, my husband had the following observation: Four men will get in the room, at least one of them will have done it, and that will be the end of your job. That’s exactly what happened.


Ernest LuningErnest LuningMarch 21, 201812min5780

DENVER — A week after Denver Mayor Michael Hancock apologized for sending suggestive text messages to a member of his security detail in 2012 — she considers them harassing, and he has called them inappropriate — dozens of protesters led by persistent Hancock critics gathered on the steps of city hall to call for the mayor to resign.


Adam McCoyAdam McCoyMarch 15, 20184min1790

“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.”


Joey BunchJoey BunchMarch 13, 20186min176

"There is a cultural shift happening," Colorado House Speaker Crisanta Duran of Denver tweeted the day Rep. Steve Lebsock was expelled from the Capitol's legislature, the second state lawmaker nationally to be swept away by the #MeToo tide, with Arizona Rep. Don Shooter. Lebsock quickly left the building. Thanks, Steve, said no one. It was an agonizing seven hours of testimony about his alleged prevalent sexual harassment. Several of his then-fellow legislators urged him to quit. The number of accusers, the number of allegations and the number of times Lebsock sought to retaliate ultimately delivered a landslide vote.


Miller HudsonMiller HudsonMarch 6, 20188min1270

Weathering a seven-hour public hearing is a chore that usually falls to reporters and lobbyists who are compensated for their misery. Last week’s expulsion drama in the Colorado House of Representatives, however, packed the public gallery with young women wearing black (mostly interns and legislative aides), together with a smattering of the curious. A century has elapsed since the Legislature last considered ejecting one of its members. That 1915 debate involved a Representative charged with bribery, a subsequent perjury and concluded with his arrest on the floor of the House Chamber. A Democratic legislator and four other women, by contrast, alleged eleven instances of sexual harassment on the part of Steve Lebsock — charges judged credible by an independent investigator. House Democrats introduced their resolution to expel Lebsock from his seat, commandeering Republicans into a brawl with implications for three Senate colleagues facing similar charges.


Dan NjegomirDan NjegomirMarch 5, 201813min297

The #MeToo movement must seem like déjà vu to Karen Middleton. The former state lawmaker, longtime education policy wonk, self-described "fierce feminist" — and nowadays, point person for abortion-rights advocacy in Colorado — took her seat in the legislature a decade ago in the wake of the Capitol's last big sexual-misconduct scandal. It was her own predecessor in her state House district who wound up resigning in the face of allegations. And while some things never seem to change, she says the response by some politicians to the latest round of harassment allegations actually has been worse than was the case in 2008. She explains how and also discusses education reform; her first forays into politics — and the therapeutic value of home renovation — in this week's Q&A.


Adam McCoyAdam McCoyMarch 5, 20184min12260

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.


Kara MasonKara MasonFebruary 16, 20183min4090

Aurora City Council member Charlie Richardson said if sexual harassment “can happen in Hollywood, it can happen in Aurora.” But the resolution he was pushing to prevent public funds from being used in related lawsuits against council members and senior staff is on pause.

The resolution hit the floor Monday night and was tabled indefinitely — a move Richardson said means the measure is dead. But many of the council members who voted the measure down say it’s not the measure, but the timing they’re concerned about.

The resolution deemed that if senior staff members and council members didn’t partake in sexual harassment training, they may not be able to utilize taxpayer money in defending their case.

Councilman Bob LeGare, who motioned that the resolution be put on hold, said during the meeting he’d like to see the measure back in front of council once city staff is able to schedule some kind of sexual harassment training.

The council was evenly split, with Mayor Steve Hogan casting the tie-breaking vote.

Councilman Bob Roth said prior to the vote he’d be a no vote, not because of timing, but because it’s a non-issue in Aurora.

“It’s a solution looking for a problem,” he said.

But for the most part, councilors agreed that sexual harassment should be taken seriously, especially as cases have made headlines from showbiz to the state Legislature, where Democrats are looking to expel state Sen. Randy Baumgardner, R-Hot Sulfur Springs.

“I don’t think tracking down training would be hard to do,” said council newbie Allison Hiltz.

Staff said during the meeting a training would likely take about two hours. But schedules are so far packed.

The original resolution, before it was sent to the council floor, didn’t include a training requirement. But Richardson decided to include that in the resolution as an “escape valve.”