Denver Mayor Michael Hancock issued an apology Tuesday for sexually suggestive text messages he sent six years ago to a female police officer who was assigned to his security detail.
In an interview with 9Wants to Know, Hancock says he regrets sending the text messages and that he was “too casual” in his correspondence with his subordinate.
He said it was a little embarrassing, “Apologizing to my wife and family and Detective Branch-Wise, to the people of Denver.”
“This role I play in my family and the people of Denver is very, very sacred and important to me -- I give it everything I have,” Hancock said. “I never want to embarrass this city and I certainly don’t want to embarrass my wife and children. I’ve done that here and that’s why it’s important to me to lean in and take responsibility”
9Wants to Know has obtained copies of some texts between Hancock and Denver Police Detective Leslie Branch-Wise sent from Feb. 2012 – April 2012. The messages were provided to 9Wants to Know under the Colorado Open Records Act from the mayor’s office.
Among the messages, the mayor said:
“You look sexy in all that black! LOL!"
after seeing Branch-Wise on television.
He also said:
"Loved the short doo. You made it hard on a brotha to keep it correct everyday. :)".
He also sent her a message about pole dancing:
"Ok, so I just watched this story on women taking pole dancing classes. Have you every taking(sic) one and why do women take the course? If not, have you ever considered taking one and why? Thoughts?"
After she apparently failed to respond, he sent her another message at 9:42 p.m. on April 20, 2012, saying:
"Be careful! I'm curious ;)!"
PHOTOS: Hancock text messages
His office issued a formal statement saying in part:
“I am here today to apologize for my own words from that time – text messages that were too familiar and unprofessional.
But let me be clear – my behavior did not involve sexual advances or inappropriate physical contact.
During Detective Branch-Wise’s time on the security team, we became friends, but my text messages in 2012 blurred the lines between being a friend and being a boss.”
These messages were sent and received during the mayor’s first year in office – just months after he denied allegations that he paid prostitutes for sex. In an interview with 9Wants 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.”
He repeatedly denied the claims and even turned over phone records to show that he did not make calls to a notorious prostitution business.
“You had to know that you were being scrutinized more intensely, and that might lead some to ask; What in the heck were you thinking?" 9Wants to Know reporter Chris Vanderveen said.
"First of all, those allegations were false,” Hancock said. "Regardless.. I know the scrutiny this office is under every day... And that thinking is where I'm sitting here saying, I know better."
9Wants to Know reached out to Branch-Wise, who declined to comment at this time.
From approximately August 2011 to March 2012, Branch-Wise worked on the mayor’s security detail, according to court documents. During that time, she filed a sexual harassment complaint against the Special Assistant to the Mayor, Wayne McDonald.
The city paid $75,000 in “liability claims” to Branch-Wise in 2013 to settle these claims.
McDonald was fired from his post in May 2012 and later sued the mayor and the detective.
9Wants to Know's Chris Vanderveen sat down with Hancock Tuesday afternoon. You can watch that interview below.
Read Hancock's full statement below:
"Six years ago, Denver Police Detective Leslie Branch-Wise was a member of my security team. In May of 2012, she called me. She let me know she had requested a transfer out of the unit because a member of my staff had sexually harassed her.
I listened and what I heard greatly disturbed me. I apologized that this had happened. We reviewed the matter and took immediate action. The employee was fired within days.
While those facts have been public for years, I am here today to apologize for my own words from that time - text messages that were too familiar and unprofessional.
But let me be clear - my behavior did not involve sexual advances or inappropriate physical contact.
During Detective Branch-Wise's time on the security team, we became friends, but my text messages in 2012 blurred the lines between being a friend and being a boss.
Unfortunately, I didn't know until just a few days ago that she 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.
I sincerely apologize to Detective Branch-Wise, to my wife and family, and to the people of Denver.
I trust that those who know me will recognize that this is not a full measure of my character - of who I am as a husband, a father, a son or the Mayor of this great city. I have learned from this mistake, and today I assure you that my words and actions will continue to support all women in the workplace.
I have the utmost respect for Detective Branch-Wise. She showed courage in 2012, and again by coming forward now. She is a valued and dedicated police officer who has served and continues to serve this city well."