Denver7’s Tony Kovaleski updates the story of a sexual harassment claim against Denver Mayor Michael Hancock from a former member of his police security detail–a story which, despite the apparent reluctance of the City Council to wade into a complex and politically murky situation further scrambled by opportunistic score-settling against the Mayor by the police union, is not going away:
Nearly three weeks after Detective Leslie Branch-Wise broke her silence accusing Denver Mayor Michael Hancock of sexual harassment, calls for an investigation have gone nowhere. Now, in an exclusive interview with Denver7 Investigates, Branch-Wise is accusing Denver City Council of protecting the mayor and sweeping the issue under the rug.
The bombshell accusations come just days after Denver City Council released a joint statement indicating there will be no further investigation into the sexual harassment claims against the mayor, out of concern that doing so would further victimize the former security detail officer who told Denver7 Chief Investigator Tony Kovaleski on Feb. 27 that the mayor’s texts made her uncomfortable.
On Sunday, Branch-Wise confirmed with Kovaleski nobody from City Hall had contacted her to ask if she wanted an investigation into the mayor.
“That says to me that they don’t want to investigate… they don’t want to investigate the mayor,” Branch-Wise said. “That says to me they have no interest in how I feel about what happened to me. I was victimized. In not asking me how I feel about this victimizing is to say, ‘how she feels doesn’t matter.’”
Does she consider this a cover-up?
“I do. I strongly do,” Branch-wise told Kovaleski.
Obviously the stated reason by Denver City Council for not investigating further, the risk of “re-victimizing” Leslie Branch-Wise, can no longer be considered valid. We are very sensitive to the difficult situation Branch-Wise is in, with her settlement in a sexual harassment complaint against Mayor Hancock’s close friend and aide having apparently prevented her from getting accountability for Hancock’s own actions. We’ll say further that there is something especially distasteful about this woman being victimized twice with no apparent regard by the Mayor for her prior experience.
We also understand that Hancock’s long-running battle with the police union has grown highly acrimonious of late, with a recent appearance by the head of the DPD union to help the Trump administration demonize immigrants at the city’s expense and the union jumping to call for Hancock’s resignation in the wake of the disclosure of Branch-Wise’s story. It’s further true that Hancock has apologized, which differentiates his case from other recent cases in Colorado politics where the alleged harassers have issued blanket denials.
But when the victim says justice has not been done, justice has not been done.
And that means the questions must continue, if not by City Council than the press or whatever other oversight there is. The full story of both what happened in 2011, as well as what has been happening for years between the Mayor of Denver and the city’s police force over much larger issues, should be told. And let the chips fall where they may.