Denver Mayor Apologizes After Police Detective Accuses Him Of Sexual Harassment

Denver Mayor Michael Hancock has apologized after he was accused of sexual harassment over text messages sent to a former member of his security detail in 2012 Chip Somodevilla/Getty

Denver's Mayor has issued an apology after a veteran police detective accused the politician of sexually harassing her while she was a member of his security detail six years ago.

Denver police detective Leslie Branch-Wise said Mayor Michael Hancock made inappropriate comments and repeatedly sent her text messages during 2012—his first year in office. The detective went public with her allegations in an interview with Denver7 on Tuesday.

In one text, shown to the news broadcaster, Hancock complimented Branch-Wise's haircut and wrote: "You made it hard on a brotha to keep it correct every day."

In another message, the politician told Branch-Wise "you look sexy in all that black," after spotting her on television in the crowd at a Denver Nuggets game.

The veteran police detective said the mayor also sent her an inappropriate message about pole dancing: "So I just watched this story on women taking pole dancing classes. Have you ever taken one? Why do women take the course? If not have you ever considered taking one and why? Your thoughts?"

Branch-Wise said she did not respond to the mayor's provocative messages, but alleged he kept going, writing: "Be careful, I'm curious. LOL!"

When asked how she interpreted the text message about pole-dancing, Branch-Wise said it signalled that Hancock did not respect her as an employee.

"It was a hard time in my life," Branch-Wise said. "I didn't have anyone to tell, I didn't have anyone to talk to. That's my boss," Branch-Wise told Denver7.

In a statement issued by his office, Hancock said he wanted to "apologize for my own words from that time—text messages that were too familiar and unprofessional."

However, he said his behavior "did not involve sexual advances or inappropriate physical contact."

The mayor said that during Branch-Wise's time on his security team, the two "became friends, but my text messages in 2012 blurred lines between being a friend and being a boss."

Read more: Former LAPD officers Sentenced To 25 Years In Prison For Sexually Assaulting Women While On Duty

During her time as a member of Hancock's security detail—from approximately August 2011 to March 2012—Branch-Wise had already filed a separate sexual harassment complaint against the Special Assistant to the Mayor, Wayne McDonald, which resulted in the city paying $75,000 in "liability claims" to the police detective in 2013.

At the time, the mayor had taken action and fired McDonald days after the allegations were made. The former special assistant later sued the city for wrongful termination, settling for $200,000 in 2016.

Hancock seemed to make reference to the incident in his apology, alleging that he "didn't know until just a few days ago that [Branch-Wise] felt our text exchanges were unwelcome and contributed to the pain and disrespect she was already feeling. But it is obvious now that she did feel that way."

He said he wanted to "sincerely apologize" to Branch-Wise, as well as his wife, family and the people of Denver, adding that he had "learned from this mistake."

Hancock separately told Denver7 that while he does acknowledge his behavior was inappropriate, he does not believe it was sexual harassment, however.

The text messages to Branch-Wise would have been sent just months after the mayor denied allegations that he had paid prostitutes for sex.

In an interview with 9 Wants to Know in 2011, before he was elected mayor, Hancock said: "Let me make it very clear to you one more time, I have never used the services of a brothel before in my life and I have never paid for a woman to do anything for me, I want to make that very clear to you."

In his statement released Tuesday, Hancock said he has the "utmost respect" for Branch-Wise, adding that she "is a valued and dedicated police officer who has served and continues to serve this city well."