Emails Suggest City Coordinated With Hancock On Escort Inquiry

Denver Was Going To Deny Media Requests On Mayor-Elect But That Changed Day Before Election

Something changed last weekend at City Hall in the controversy over Denver Mayor-elect Michael Hancock and a Denver escort service, documents obtained by CALL7 Investigators show.

It was a change that helped Hancock avoid a damaging story right before the election.

Denver media organizations had filed open records requests in the morning of June 3, asking police for any evidence that Hancock was photographed or videotaped at an alleged escort service location during a police and federal investigation of Denver Players club. A former owner of the club released client records that appear to show Hancock -- his name misspelled Handcock -- booking three visits with escorts using his personal cellphone number.

Hancock has repeatedly denied ever using the service or any escort service, and police said there was no photo or video evidence of him or his car at the escort service's address.

"This is categorically untrue," Hancock told 7NEWS reporter Marshall Zelinger last week. "It's the most nastiest, negative lie that I have ever heard levied against me or anyone in this municipal election."

The media was asking for records four days before the election, and Hancock’s staff was trying to prevent any stories linking their candidate to the escort club from airing or publishing before Election Day, records and interviews show.

“As you are aware, the election for Denver’s Mayor is an all mail-in ballot,” Hancock attorney Bruce James wrote 7NEWS the day before the election. “In fact, there are now fewer than 30 hours during which ballots can be delivered to the election centers by the close of business on Tuesday, June 7th. As a result, we believe that we are squarely within the confines of the Personal Attack Doctrine (which James said prevents media from airing attacks on candidates within 72 hours of an election) and the Players Club Story should not be run under any circumstances.”

On Friday, June 3, Denver Manager of Safety’s office was prepared to deny the media requests asking for video or photographs of Hancock at the Denver Players club.

Around 1 p.m., the city’s records coordinator wrote an email to Jeff Dorschner, spokesman for the U.S. attorney’s office who is prosecuting the escort service owner on tax evasion and racketeering charges.

“Our response will be that there is still an active federal prosecution,” the city official wrote Dorschner.

“That is exactly right,” Dorschner wrote. “Thanks for the heads up.”

Just before 3 p.m., the records coordinator also sent the same email to the city’s police spokesman and one of the reporters who asked for the records, saying there will be a formal denial forthcoming.

At 5:22 p.m., James, a managing partner at the politically connected firm Brownstein, Hyatt, Farber, Schreck, sent a request similar to the media requests but making clear he worked for Hancock and asking that any information be released only to him.

“It is without coincidence that this request mirrors the request you received from 9News today,” James wrote. “We believe the story they are investigating is completely without merit and we are anxious to prove that the rumors concerning (Hancock’s presence at the escort location) are absolutely false. However, under no circumstances are we authorizing or consenting to the release of the requested materials directly to 9News and we thereby object to their request.”

James told 7NEWS on Thursday that he was working with 9News and the Denver Post to help them obtain documents that would help clear Hancock and kill any story, but it is clear from the emails that he would only help the media outlets if there was information clearing Hancock of the allegations he was at the escort service.

On Saturday, June 4, Nancy Kuhn, spokeswoman for the acting Mayor Bill Vidal, emailed Vidal's chief of staff Jack Finlaw about the media request.

Kuhn told CALL7 Investigator John Ferrugia that all requests are routed through the mayor’s office but sources say it is unusual for the mayor to be in on a request not focusing on the mayor’s office.

On Sunday, June 5, at 5 p.m., Finlaw emailed Manager of Safety Charley Garcia -- copying Vidal -- and asked to discuss the records requests.

“Please can you call me tomorrow morning to discuss the 9News request for info discussed in the emails below?” Finlaw wrote.

Six minutes later, Finlaw emailed Kuhn, saying he wanted to see all responses before they were sent out.

On Monday morning, the city records coordinator had to contact Dorschner again, saying there had been a change.

“The City Attorney’s Office requested that we actually review the evidence to see if we had responsive records to the request from 9NEWS,” she wrote. “The Draft which is being reviewed by various levels in the city is attached. I will keep you posted on the final response.”

Dorschner said he thought over the weekend that the requests would be denied.

"We learned of the manager of safety response to the request on Monday," Dorschner told Ferrugia on Friday. "It was different than what we originally expected, but it's not our concern as this response has no effect on the prosecution."

The response letter to media pointed out that the city could deny the records, but then confirmed that there is no video or photographs of Hancock entering the escort service address at 1675 Fillmore St. or his vehicle being at that address. The response was sent to media on Monday morning.

The media then expanded the request to other addresses where police believed the escort service operated. The records coordinator sent the expanded request to James, and he responded:

"If the search reaches the same results as this morning's, namely no evidence of Mr. Hancock at or near the subject properties, we are fully comfortable with you sharing it directly with ... other third parties seeking such information," James wrote. "While we believe the search will produce the same results (as the Fillmore location), in the unlikely event it does not, we believe disclosure of the result would violate the privacy interests of Mr. Hancock, and we would request that such a result be disclosed only to me in my capacity as his counsel."

Vidal was not available for comment and no official would appear on camera to answer questions.

Hancock won the mayor's race the next day and is scheduled to be sworn in July.

Print this article Back to Top