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Fallout builds after Hancock’s inappropriate text messages

DENVER -- Political pressure is growing for an independent investigation into alleged inappropriate behavior by Denver Mayor Michael Hancock after he admitted sending inappropriate text messages to  Leslie Branch-Wise, a former member of his security detail.

The mayor's office said Wednesday night that Hancock sent a handwritten apology for the inappropriate texts to Branch-Wise, who is currently a detective in the Denver Police Department.

However, no internal investigation has been initiated and no one within city government appears to be asking for the mayor to resign.

The Denver Sheriff’s Fraternal Order of Police is among a handful of organizations asking for an internal investigation.

“No women, whether they’re officers or civilians, should be subjected to that type of behavior,” said Mike Britton, vice president of the union.

The Denver Ethics Commission said no city department or employees have asked it to conduct an internal review.

“You're not going to get a true investigation because what you have in this form of government is an appointed police chief, an appointed sheriff. I don’t even know where you’ll get an investigation into this,” Britton said.

The FOP said this case is proof Denver needs an elected sheriff or official who can investigate the city’s top leader.

“You need someone that's independent of this strong mayoral government. As you can see right now there's no checks and balances, there's no accountability,” Britton said.

The Denver Police Protective Association said it considers the allegations against Hancock very serious.

“We urge the people of Denver to be adamant that our city officials are held accountable," the union said.

Lisa Calderon with the Colorado Latino Forum, a group calling for an independent investigation and for the city council to demand one.

Her group is planning a rally on the second floor of the Denver City and County Building on March 7 to call attention to Hancock’s behavior. It's calling the event #TimesUpHancock.

“We are greatly concerned he can get away with just an apology. If this was anyone else besides the mayor, there would be an investigation,” Calderon said.

No one on the Denver City Council is calling for Hancock to resign or for an investigation.

City Council President Albus Brooks released a statement about it on Facebook.

"My heart hurts for my city in this moment.

My heart hurts for Detective Branch-Wise and the families this impacted.

The Mayor has rightfully apologized, and I trust that he and his administration are taking the appropriate steps to learn from this lesson so it won’t happen again.

In this situation, Denver City Council has no legal authority to take any action on behalf of this employee or against the Mayor.

Mayor Hancock's apology and process for reconciliation is important not only for the parties involved, but for the city of Denver.

As the President of Denver City Council it is important to me that we foster a safe work environment for all city employees. I am committed to creating a culture where the lessons we learn from, can be applied to develop a more equitable Denver."

District 2 Councilman Kevin Flynn also responded to the allegations, but said he will not initiate an investigation or call for Hancock's resignation.

"I haven’t spoken with any colleagues about doing our own investigation, but I would not initiate one. As for resignation, at this stage in the term I think that’s not a good idea. I tend to look at this from a practical standpoint. Under the city charter, we are required to call a special election if the mayor resigns. The earliest it could be held under the timeline in the charter, if the office were vacant today, would by the second or third week of July. The next mayoral election is less than 10 months after that. It costs between $1 million and $1.2 million to hold a special citywide election.

Because the next election is around the corner, and the cost of a special election between now and then is significant, my preference is to let Denver voters weigh in on Mayor Hancock next May."

At-large Councilwoman Debbie Ortega said she was "disappointed" to learn about the text messages, but appreciates the apology the mayor issued.

"I am disappointed to learn about Mayor Hancock’s inappropriate texts to a member of his security team and appreciate the apology he has issued about this. I take these issues very seriously and am committed to fostering an environment that is professional, respectful, and free from workplace harassment and discrimination.

It is never appropriate to subject a woman or any person in the workplace to sexual comments, innuendo or harassment, especially when they are a subordinate.

I reviewed our current policies and procedures and learned that Denver’s Human Resources Department will be launching a required training in March, Respectful Workplace: Sexual Harassment Prevention.

This awareness training will be citywide for all employees and cover law, policy, and procedure. We must assure our workers are protected from unwanted harassment and have clear avenues to have their concerns addressed."