In the wake of several sexual misconduct allegations causing tumult in Colorado’s state legislature, Denver Mayor Michael Hancock was accused on Tuesday of sexual harassment by a female police officer who worked on his security detail in 2012.
Denver police detective Leslie Branch-Wise told Denver7 News in an exclusive interview that she is “positively sure” she was sexually harassed by the mayor. “There were times that he said I looked sexy and that I would make it hard for him to concentrate.”
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In a text message in February 2012, Mayor Hancock wrote to Branch-Wise, in part: “You made it hard on a brotha to keep it correct everyday. :)” In April 2012, when Branch-Wise was at a Nuggets game, Hancock spotted her on television and texted her: “You look sexy in all that black!” According to messages Branch-Wise kept on her phone, Hancock also sent her a text inquiring whether she’d ever tried pole dancing.
Branch-Wise kept this information to herself for six years, but when the Denver7 Investigates team received an anonymous letter with the allegations, she came forward and spoke to reporters at the station.
After watching portions of the interview with Branch-Wise, Hancock sat down with Denver7 and offered an apology. “This was a mistake. I’m human, I make mistakes,” Hancock said. “I was too familiar, I was too casual, and those text exchanges were inappropriate and unprofessional.” The mayor also expressed hope that detective Branch-Wise will let him apologize, and that his wife and children will forgive him. “I hope this city…knows that this is not the man—this is not the character of the man—I am,” he says. “I will not do anything to repeat these types of errors in the future.”
On Tuesday, Hancock also released a formal statement of apology on YouTube:
Hancock says in the video that in 2012, Branch-Wise requested a transfer from his security unit because a member of his staff—Wayne McDonald—sexually harassed her. Days later, McDonald was fired. In the video, Hancock also reiterates that his own behavior at the time was “too familiar” and “unprofessional,” but, he says, “Let me be clear: My behavior did not involve sexual advances or inappropriate physical contact.” He also praised Branch-Wise’s courage for coming forward and sharing her story.