Denver District Attorney Beth McCann will restructure the duties of her second in command and require him to undergo executive training for taking "half swings" with a baseball bat at a female prosecutor in a dispute and for making what McCann called “demeaning and inappropriate comments” to other employees.
The action followed investigation of the matter by the Denver-based Employers Council.
McCann wrote a letter on Friday to Assistant District Attorney Ryan Brackley also instructing him to remove any baseball bat from his office and requiring him to participate in mediation with any employees who felt harmed by his conduct.
“The goal will be to have an open and honest discussion of the impact of your actions and words and to agree on a path forward that will allow you to repair those professional working relationships,” McCann said in the letter, obtained through a July 10 Colorado Open Records Act request.
McCann denied that imminent disclosure of the complaints by Colorado Politics prompted her to take the personnel actions. She said any corrective actions for Brackley already were in process prior to CoPo inquiring about alleged complaints about Brackley’s management style.
“I believe the course of action I have chosen is correct,” McCann said in an interview late Monday. “I know that it came from a great deal of thought and discussion with some of the top folks in the office. I believe we do have a path forward that will continue to have the office be strong and a successful office with great employees.”
Brackley left the Boulder District Attorney's Office after eight years of service there to join McCann's office after she was elected Denver DA in late 2016, the Boulder Daily Camera reported at the time.
McCann on June 28 received a report from the Employers Council, an outside investigative firm that McCann hired to investigate a March 4 complaint about Brackley filed by another prosecutor, Chief Deputy District Attorney Adrienne Greene.
Greene alleged that in her 22 years with the Denver District Attorney’s office she had never felt the need to write a similar letter informing a boss of “what I believe to be acts ranging from unprofessional to discriminatory.” She described “emotional abuse” by Brackley of other employees and threatening behavior she herself experienced from him.
Greene said that on Jan. 14, Brackley came into her office where she was talking to another prosecutor. He had a wooden baseball bat over his shoulder and ordered the other prosecutor to leave, according to her complaint.
Brackley at that time demanded that Greene revise a letter of recommendation she had written on behalf of an investigator, Greene alleged. She said Brackley then walked up to her desk and began to do "half swings" with the baseball bat in her direction, where she was sitting, at the level of her head and shoulders.
“Given that he was swinging a baseball bat in my direction during the entirety of the exchange, I felt threatened by his behavior,” Greene’s letter to McCann stated. “As I am his subordinate, I was uncertain where this level of anger was coming from. Moreover, I felt the need to placate him in an effort not to escalate the situation and maintain my safety. I feel quite certain that he would not have engaged in that conduct with a male employee.”
McCann decided to have an outside firm, the Employers Council, investigate because she deemed it inappropriate to handle the complaint internally. She said she is not sure how much the investigation cost.
Brackley told the Employers Council workplace investigator, Michele Sturgell, that he had not meant to threaten Greene, and that the bat often is in his hands while he is in his office “milling around.”
“I never should have created that situation in the first place,” Brackley said. “I also have a soccer ball in my office that I often kick around as well. I also have a baseball that I roll around.”
Sturgell concluded that while Brackley did not intend to harm or frighten Greene, he “lacks an awareness of how actions are perceived and how he may make others feel as a result.”
Sturgell found it “more likely than not” that Brackley swung the bat in Greene’s direction.
Sturgell also found it “more likely than not” that Brackley had sent a text message to another prosecutor threatening that he would fire her “f---ing fat ass” if she posted crime scene photos on Facebook. That prosecutor, Katherine Hansen, said that while she was upset by the text, she did not want Brackley fired and considered him a friend, according to the workplace investigation.
Another employee said during the investigation that during an office update meeting, Brackley silenced her as she talked about outreach to local schools and then accused her in front of other employees of pouting.
She said after the meeting she teared up with another employee, and that it was one of several incidents in which she felt demeaned by Brackley, the investigator said.
The Employers Council's Sturgell also heard other allegations, including that Brackley was dating a subordinate, but the investigator did not probe those issues further because they were not in the scope of the initial allegations.
Sturgell found an allegation that Brackley had used age as a reason to not promote an investigator to chief investigator in the Denver District Attorney’s office was “less likely than not.”
Brackley had defended his handling of the situation, noting that two factions in the investigative office “were mean to each other.” He said the investigator who had complained was “kind of the leader of the mean group” and also had not done enough to stop infighting.
An allegation that Brackley demeaned the investigator, Jay Hirokawa, who is Asian-American, by saying “there aren’t many cops like you” also was deemed “less likely than so” by Sturgell, who noted Brackley had vehemently denied the alleged comment.
During the workplace probe, Hirokawa complained that a federal grant application he prepared for body armor ended up going by the wayside because paperwork was never signed. The body armor grant instead went to Adams County.