Westword’s Michael Roberts reports and it’s not good for Denver Mayor Michael Hancock:
Last night, Mayor Michael Hancock issued an extraordinary video apology for what his office has termed “inappropriate behavior” toward Denver Police Detective Leslie Branch-Wise when she was part of his security detail approximately six years ago. The clip, on view below, was prompted by Branch-Wise’s participation in a February 27 Denver7 report in which she shared text messages from Hancock, one of which asked if she’d ever taken a pole-dancing course before warning her, “Be careful! I’m curious;)!”
Hancock’s star has continued to rise despite past links to stories alleging sexually inappropriate behavior — most notably involving the Denver Players/Denver Sugar prostitution ring. But the latest revelation, which is emerging amid the post-Harvey Weinstein rise of the #MeToo movement, suggests that this time around, he won’t so easily avoid paying a political price as he’s gearing up to run for his third term as mayor.
In her interview with Denver7, Branch-Wise made public an open secret among political observers and the press: She was the Denver police officer to whom Hancock friend and political adviser Wayne McDonald was accused of making inappropriate comments in 2012. This behavior prompted Branch-Wise to request removal from the mayor’s security detail, and Hancock sacked McDonald four days later…
But allegedly, Mayor Hancock was something rather less than sympathetic.
He joined in.
[Hancock] goes on to say that “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. Unfortunately, I didn’t know until just a few days ago that she felt our text exchanges were unwelcome and contributed to the pain and disrespect she was already feeling. [Pols emphasis] But it is obvious now that she did feel that way. I sincerely apologize to Detective Branch-Wise. I apologize to my wife and family and to the people of Denver.”
DPD Detective Leslie Branch-Wise requested a transfer off Mayor Hancock’s security detail following alleged sexual harassment by Hancock’s aide Wayne McDonald, and received a settlement that reportedly prevented her from filing any other lawsuits against city employees. It should be noted, as Westword correctly does, that McDonald also sued and received a settlement over the case.
But none of those details excuse Hancock’s own behavior, or the possibility that justice for the police officer in question may have been thwarted because of the McDonald case. Hancock problematically denies that his conduct rose to the level of sexual harassment, but in its context–and above all, based on the opinion of the victim–that simply can’t be justified with the reported information.
Politically, this creates a dicey situation as Democrats in the Colorado General Assembly pursue a resolution to expel a lawmaker accused of both many more and arguably more severe instances of sexual harassment. We are not the ones tasked with handing down punishment in these cases, but it’s very important that accountability in all cases of sexual harassment be both consistent and sufficiently severe to deter further offense.
And that means everybody, even the Mayor of Denver.