Jun 21, 2021 - News

Denver Mayor Michael Hancock digs in on support of airport nominee

A photo of Denver Mayor Michael Hancock standing at his desk and looking down at some documents with his hand on his head.

Denver Mayor Michael Hancock in his office. Photo: Andy Cross/The Denver Post via Getty Images

Mayor Michael Hancock's office directly contradicted itself last week when it said its nominee to lead Denver International Airport was not named in any search warrants. Now, its strategy appears to be digging in its heels further.

State of play: Following our reporting that found Phillip Washington is in fact named in a criminal search warrant, Hancock's spokesperson Theresa Marchetta told the Denver Post that there was "absolutely nothing new or revelatory in these documents," and that there is "nothing here that contradicts any official statements from the Mayor's Office."

  • Neither claims are true.

Of note: Hancock's office has been circulating a "fact sheet" among City Council members — whose approval is needed to confirm Washington — that alleges the warrant stems from a politically motivated smear campaign by Los Angeles Sheriff Alex Villanueva, and that Washington is "collateral damage."

  • The memo also points to the fact that Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority's attorneys are contesting the warrant in court on grounds that it's legally flawed.

Yes, but: Hancock's office did not respond to Axios' question about the origin of the memo and has not publicly verified any of its claims.

Context: The Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department has an ongoing review of criminal allegations against the Los Angeles Metro transit agency Washington led for the last six years and its connection to a nonprofit it hired as part of an alleged no-bid contract.

What they're saying: Council members are still gathering information and determining where they stand on Washington's confirmation, but many disagree with the approach from the mayor's office.

  • Council member Kevin Flynn, who has supported Washington from the start, says the new information reported by numerous Denver media outlets has not changed his outlook, but that it's "unfortunate" the mayor's office won't let reporters speak to Washington, which would "clarify much of this."
  • Council member Candi CdeBaca told Axios she remains skeptical and is still seeking "more tangible proof than the word" of Hancock's office.

The big picture: Although Washington "seems like an excellent candidate," council member Amanda Sawyer told 9News, "the people of the city and county of Denver need some answers," and council members plan to try and get them over the next several weeks before voting on his confirmation next month.

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