DENVER (CBS4) – Denver’s Mayor Michael Hancock has sent a handwritten apology to a former member of his security detail who he acknowledged sending “inappropriate” texts to six years ago.
Detective Leslie Branch-Wise was on Hancock’s security team early in his first mayoral term.
Members of the Denver City Council reacted to the texts with shaking heads, but so far no calls for the resignation of the mayor.
“It was uncomfortable, it was just really uncomfortable,” councilman Rafael Espinoza told CBS4 investigator Rick Sallinger referring to text messages sent by Hancock to Branch-Wish such as “You look sexy in black… LOL.”
But will the fallout affect Michael Hancock’s ability to govern?
“Part of that role is having the support of the people,” Espinoza said. “Does that put that in jeopardy? “I would think so with certain constituency.”
The texts included one that asked if Branch-Wise ever considered taking a pole dancing class.
“Should your constituents be concerned about your character as a result of this?” Sallinger asked Hancock.
“I hope not. This is not the character of who I am. This is a human being who made a mistake, who became too familiar, too casual, with someone who he works with, who he theoretically is the boss of,” Hancock said. “That’s why I’m apologizing. I made a mistake, I’m acknowledging it, I’m apologizing, and I think Detective Branch-Wise deserves an apology.”
Councilwoman Robin Kniech wrote:
“Responsibility always lies with the boss to set high standards and to live by them, and I’m deeply troubled by the Mayor’s actions.”
Another longtime member of the city council, Debbie Ortega, called the texts a matter between two people.
“I would have dealt with it head-on. I would have made it very clear I would not be accepting what would have been inappropriate,” she said. “When are elected to office, the public places a lot of trust in our ability to make a decision. I think this is a situation where public sentiment will weigh in.”
“My heart hurts for my city in this moment,” said Denver City Council President, Albus Brooks.
He said the mayor has rightfully apologized and he “trusts that he and his administration are taking the appropriate steps to learn from this lesson so it won’t happen again.”
For the past several months the city has been preparing new sexual harassment training for all City of Denver employees. All employees are now required to participate in a 15 minute online program “which will include a video presentation of the various types of behaviors that may constitute sexual harassment and what the responsibilities are if it occurs.”