DENVER – Just five days after Detective Leslie Branch-Wise accused the Denver City Council of protecting the mayor for not wanting to pursue an investigation into the sexual harassment claims she made against him, city council is providing a response that hints at a possible investigation — depending on what new information she brings forth to the council.
On Thursday, the city’s attorney’s office sent a letter on behalf of all members of city council to Branch-Wise’s attorney, in which she requests a written complaint be sent with “all the facts and allegations against the Mayor” by Tuesday, March 27.
City council is meeting that night “for the purpose of receiving legal advice that is attorney-client privileged,” according the Denver City Council website.
The letter states the council will review Branch-Wise’s written complaint for “additional information not already known to Council and the public,” in order to determine “whether a further investigation is needed or warranted.”
The letter goes on to state that council may reject an “open” investigation since sexual harassment cases are normally dealt with in a confidential manner.
Further, the city’s legal counsel goes on to state that the scope of the investigation and the remedies available may be affected by a 2013 settlement in which Branch-Wise agreed not to file claims against anyone else in the city.
Branch-Wise accuses City Council of joining a cover-up
Last Sunday, Branch-Wise accused city council of protecting the mayor and sweeping the issue under the rug in an exclusive interview with Denver7 Chief Investigator Tony Kovaleski.
The bombshell accusations came just days after Denver City Council released a joint statement indicating there will be no further investigation into the sexual harassment claims against the mayor, out of concern that doing so would further victimize the former security detail officer who told Denver7 Investigates on Feb. 27 that the mayor’s texts made her uncomfortable.
“That says to me that they don’t want to investigate… they don’t want to investigate the mayor,” Branch-Wise said. “That says to me they have no interest in how I feel about what happened to me. I was victimized. In not asking me how I feel about this victimizing is to say, ‘how she feels doesn't matter.’”
A day later, Branch-Wise made her intentions official by sending a letter to city council in which she was “strongly encouraging” an investigation of the mayor.
“I want him to know for a fact that I am willing to cooperate with a thorough investigation,” Branch-Wise said of the letter. “They want transparency, and a full and thorough investigation would provide that.
“They say they want to be transparent but then there’s no transparency. The mayor says he made a mistake and because he said, ‘Oops, I goofed’ then this all goes away. That’s not fair. No. No one else in the city would be able to get away with that,” she said.
Council President Albus Brooks responded to Branch-Wise’s new accusations, saying the council does not have "formal investigatory powers" and no authority to discipline the Mayor, regardless of the outcome of any investigation.
Denver Mayor Michael Hancock also responded to the new claims, suggesting there was nothing to investigate since he has been open about the matter from the beginning.
"Detective Ranch-Wise has every right to ask what she wants to ask for. What I gave was my heartfelt, sincere apology, and I’ve been transparent about all that went down from my knowledge of six years ago, and I'll stand by that," Hancock said.
Since Denver7 Investigates broke the story, Hancock has responded and apologized for what happened nearly six years ago. He event went on an “unofficial” apology tour – talking to Denver media and the city’s women’s commission.
Calls for his resignation not only came with the Times Up Hancock rally a week later but also from the Colorado Fraternal Order of Police, which also called for an independent investigation looking into the city’s handling of public safety issues after the allegations of sexual harassment against the mayor came to light.
Branch-Wise first raised allegations of sexual harassment in 2012, but directed them at one of the mayor’s aides, Wayne McDonald. She said the harassment became so unbearable, she called the mayor to tell him she wanted to be taken off the detail because of McDonald’s behavior.
Hancock took action and fired McDonald four days later, the mayor’s office confirms. McDonald then sued the city for wrongful termination. He ultimately settled with the city for $200,000 in 2016.
Branch-Wise settled with the city for $75,000 in 2013.