DENVER — Mayor Michael Hancock is seeking a third term, but he now must navigate through the latest aftershock from a sexual harassment scandal first uncovered by Denver7.
Wayne McDonald, who served as an aide to Hancock before he was fired in 2012, has filed a $300,000 claim with the city regarding the mayor and the city’s attorney for defamation, breach of contract and fraud.
In the formal claim filed on Aug. 21 obtained by Denver7 Saturday, McDonald states Hancock, as well as city attorney Kristin Bronson, broke a non-disparagement clause when the mayor and Bronson publicly discussed his firing in 2012.
These statements came in the aftermath of a Denver7 exclusive in which Denver Police Detective Leslie Branch-Wise accused the mayor of sexually harassing her when she worked on Hancock’s security detail in 2011 and 2012.
Hancock took action and fired McDonald four days later. McDonald then sued the city for wrongful termination but ultimately settled with the city for $200,000 in 2016.
That settlement, however, had a non-disparagement clause as well as an agreement not to disseminate any information in connection with the lawsuit, that McDonald now says Hancock and Bronson broke when discussing the Branch-Wise case.
Denver7 asked Steve Welchert, a respected political expert in Denver, to analyze the potential impact McDonald's claim might have on Hancock’s political career as he seeks a third term.
“The more bombs that drop like this, and there may be others coming, it distracts you. It makes it harder to raise money, harder for people to kind of line up support you,” said Welchert.
He believes the timing of the filing of the claim was intentional, designed to have the greatest political impact.
“There is no question the timeline is politically motivated. It's a smart legal maneuver," he said. “The closer you get to Election Day, the tougher it gets on the mayor and his folks to figure it out.”
Welchert says he will be surprised if the city writes a check for the $300,000 demanded in McDonald's legal team.
In a statement to Denver7 Bronson said, "No lawsuit has been filed and I am confident that nothing I've said, nor anything the Mayor has said about Mr. McDonald, constitutes defamation.