City Council has no decision on Mayor Hancock investigation yet, asks for more time to deliberate

Posted at 8:20 PM, Mar 29, 2018
and last updated 2018-03-29 22:48:22-04

DENVER – City Council members said Thursday they need more time to deliberate whether or not they will proceed with a request to investigate Mayor Michael Hancock over allegations of sexual harassment.

The response from city council members comes a week after they asked Detective Leslie Branch-Wise to submit a written complaint with “all the facts and allegations against the Mayor.”

The city’s attorney’s office had asked Branch-Wise’s legal representative to submit the complaint by Tuesday of this week ahead of an attorney-client privileged meeting held later that night.

In response, Sean J. Lane, Branch-Wise’s attorney, sent a letter that afternoon, reiterating the need for the council to resolve the "fundamental dispute" in this situation: whether or not the Mayor's behavior constituted sexual harassment.

Council president Albus Brooks said the council would release a statement on Wednesday with any new information about the request, but that did not happen as the city dealt with a software bug that infected city websites and other services throughout the day. 

On Thursday, a spokesperson for the Denver City Council said members still needed more time to decide whether they would go ahead and proceed with Branch-Wise’s request.

“Council continues to deliberate over her request and receive legal advice from our own attorney,” a statement from Denver City Council Legislative Services spokeswoman Stacy Simonet reads. “We do not expect to come to any conclusions until next week at the earliest.”

City Council officials have previously stated they would review Branch-Wise’s written complaint for “additional information not already known to Council and the public,” in order to determine “whether a further investigation is needed or warranted.”

In this and prior responses, city officials have also said they may reject an “open” investigation since sexual harassment investigations “are required by state law to be private.”

Further, the city’s legal counsel goes on to state that the scope of the investigation and the remedies available may be affected by a 2013 settlement in which Branch-Wise agreed not to file claims against anyone else in the city.

Branch-Wise told Denver7 Investigates in an exclusive interview in February Mayor Hancock sent her suggestive and unwanted text messages during her time on his security detail in 2011 and 2012. In one text, he told her she looked sexy. In another text, he asked her if she ever considered taking a pole dancing class.

Mayor Hancock apologized for sending the texts, admitting they were inappropriate, but said he did not believe he sexually harassed Branch-Wise.

Branch-Wise has publicly pushed for the council to investigate. 

“I want [them] to know for a fact that I am willing to cooperate with a thorough investigation,” Branch-Wise told Denver7. “They want transparency, and a full and thorough investigation would provide that.

“They say they want to be transparent but then there’s no transparency. The mayor says he made a mistake and because he said, ‘Oops, I goofed’ then this all goes away. That’s not fair. No. No one else in the city would be able to get away with that,” she said.

Branch-Wise reached a $75,000 settlement with the city in 2013 after alleging one of the mayor’s aides sexually harassed her. That aide, Wayne McDonald, was fired and later sued for wrongful termination. He reached a $200,000 settlement with the city in 2016.