DENVER - A former member of Denver Mayor Michael Hancock's security detail accused the mayor of sexually harassing her with inappropriate text messages in 2011 and 2012, prompting Hancock to apologize and publicly address the issue.
Leslie Branch-Wise, a Denver police detective, spoke with our partners at Denver7 and provided screenshots of the text messages.
One text message from Hancock compliments Branch-Wise's haircut and says, "You made it hard on a brotha to keep it correct everyday."
Another text was sent after Hancock saw Branch-Wise on TV during a Denver Nuggets game, saying, "Enjoy! You better bring them some luck! You look sexy in all that black." One other text message from Hancock talked about pole dancing classes, and Hancock asked Branch-Wise if she had ever considered taking one. She didn't respond.
Branch-Wise told Denver7 that text message made her feel disrespected as an employee. She said she didn't ask the mayor to stop because she was worried about retaliation.
“If you are down here and your boss is up here and he's showering you with these inappropriate texts and sayings and making you feel uncomfortable, who do you tell if he's at the top?” Branch-Wise said. “It's crushing.”
She said she's not planning on filing an official claim now.
The revelation came about due to an anonymous letter sent to Denver media outlets that claimed the mayor harassed Branch-Wise. Denver7 reports the letter also contains many unsubstantiated personal allegations.
“You received an anonymous letter, and it had some information in it that was true,” Branch-Wise said. “I just didn’t want to hide it anymore.”
Hancock said he didn't believe his behavior was sexual harassment, but he says he now realizes it was inappropriate.
"I am here to accept the responsibility for that and to apologize," Hancock told Denver7. “This whole situation is wrought with politics, but I have to push through those politics. She's responding to an anonymous letter you got. You called her based on that anonymous letter, wrought with politics, and [there are] really slanderous things written into that letter. But more importantly, even when I knew all of that in the backdrop, Detective Branch-Wise deserved more and she deserves an apology from me.
Branch-Wise said she is worried about facing consequences for making allegations against the mayor, but Hancock said she has nothing to fear.
“She has served our city well as a Denver police officer. She continues to serve our city well. There's no revenge here. I hope to apologize to her, if she will allow me to do that,” Hancock said. “The city is not interested in retaliation. I'm interested in taking responsibility.”