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Ethics complaint against Denver mayor dismissed, stemmed from his Thanksgiving travel

michael hancock
Posted at 2:22 PM, Feb 17, 2021
and last updated 2021-02-18 09:11:17-05

DENVER — An ethics complaint that was filed against Denver Mayor Michael Hancock regarding his travel around Thanksgiving has been dismissed.

Denver resident Tonia Wilson filed the complaint in November after weeks of the mayor pleading with Denverites to stay home if possible over the holiday. He then left the state to see family.

The complaint was addressed during a Board of Ethics virtual meeting in mid-January.

"If the Mayor truly believed, as he advised citizens repeatedly, that travel and get-togethers over Thanksgiving would lead to additional loss of life due to COVID, why did he feel comfortable traveling and getting together with those outside of his household during that time?" the complaint reads, in part.

Click here to read the full statement.

The complaint accused Hancock of violating two parts of the city's Code of Ethics: using public office for private gain and aiding any others to violate any provision of the code.

Acknowledging the mayor's actions disappointed not only citizens but also city employees, Denver Board of Ethics Chairman Joseph Michaels said during a virtual meeting Wednesday, however, that the complaint did not give rise to a violation of the code.

"The board is troubled by these allegations and it expects all public employees and elected officials to live up to the highest standard of ethical behaviors," Michaels said. "However, this code… is an intent clause, it is not an actionable, stand-alone clause, and the board is limited to considering complaints that allege violations of the code of ethics itself. While this complaint alleged violations of specific provisions of the code, the Board determined that no such violations have occurred."

On Jan. 14, during Denver7's Mornings with the Mayor, Hancock said while it was a "bad moment of judgment," it was not an ethics violation.

The complaint stemmed from frustration after Hancock left the state to celebrate Thanksgiving with his family on Nov. 25, 2020. Hancock released a statement later in the day on Nov. 25 about his decision, where he acknowledged that he had disappointed many.

“As a public official, whose conduct is rightly scrutinized for the message it sends to others, I apologize to the residents of Denver who see my decision as conflicting with the guidance to stay at home for all but essential travel," he said. "I made my decision as a husband and father, and for those who are angry and disappointed, I humbly ask you to forgive decisions that are borne of my heart and not my head.