A second high-ranking prosecutor will leave Denver District Attorney Beth McCann’s office in the wake of a workplace investigation that questioned whether McCann was letting bullying, sexist and racial remarks go unpunished.
McCann, in an email to her top deputies Tuesday night, announced the impending departure of Chief Deputy District Attorney Michael Song.
The announcement came hours after The Gazette and Colorado Politics reported that a whistleblower told an external investigator that McCann “created an atmosphere of fear” by looking the other way when told of alleged wrongdoing by Song. It also followed a meeting McCann held with her top deputies in the office in which they expressed concern for the office.
“I want to let you know that I listened carefully this afternoon,” McCann said in an email to her deputies, a copy of which was obtained by The Gazette. “I appreciate your willingness to be honest and forthright about your feelings and concern. I did not realize the extent of the pain and the depth of the feeling that you expressed. I am truly sorry for the embarrassment to the office that has occurred over the last few weeks.”
She added: “I want to let you know that I have talked with Michael about the issues we discussed, and Michael will be leaving the office.”
McCann’s email concluded: “I am committed to working with you to heal the wounds, and I welcome your support.”
Song had been accused of blocking Latinos from a criminal jury in a case he was trying because the defendant was Latino. Doing so would violate a U.S. Supreme Court ruling that bars prosecutors from dismissing jurors solely based on race.
Another prosecutor also complained that Song ordered a witness in that case to refrain from talking to the defense, an act that runs afoul of Colorado’s rules for criminal procedures. Song also was accused of engaging in inappropriate and sexist language during office banter.
Song, who had been handling medical marijuana regulations for the Colorado Attorney General’s office, was hired by McCann originally to handle elder abuse cases. McCann, who was elected in November 2016, had shifted Song’s duties away from trial work to other duties, including reviewing cases for potential resentencing.
A spokeswoman for McCann, Carolyn Tyler, said the change in duties for Song was not connected to job performance. Tyler also had defended McCann’s initial handling of the allegations against Song, pointing out that no formal complaint ever had been lodged against Song.
The whistleblower, Adrienne Greene, told an external investigator that McCann’s lenient treatment of Song had set the stage for McCann’s second-in-command, Deputy District Attorney Ryan Brackley to bully her and other staffers. Greene reported that Brackley had taken “half swings” with a wooden baseball bat at her head in her office during an office dispute.
After receiving a formal complaint from Greene, McCann asked the Denver-based Employers Council to investigate her office. The workplace investigation found it likely Brackley had swung the baseball bat at Greene but did so without intending to harm or frighten her. He also likely embarrassed another prosecutor by sending a group text threatening to fire her “f***ing fat ass” if she posted crime scene photos on Facebook and belittled another employee during a staff meeting, the workplace investigation found.
McCann originally had intended to keep Brackley as her second-in-command despite the reports of bullying. She later reversed course and announced that, upon further consideration, Brackley would resign. The workplace investigation did not probe the allegations regarding Song or whether McCann had acted appropriately regarding Song.