Political Polygraph: Romer’s ad on Hancock’s pay-raise votes leans deceptive

Denver Post - Anthony Cotton

In his new commercial, mayoral candidate Chris Romer criticizes his opponent, city councilman Michael Hancock, over voting for pay raises for city workers in 2007 and for earlier this year supporting raises for the city council and the incoming mayor.

A Denver Post review of the ad finds two of its strongest claims “Lean Deceptive,” two claims “Lean True,” two claims are “Nothing But The Truth,” and one is in the “Gray Area.”

Overall, we find that the ad … Leans Deceptive.

Claim: “The Post said it betrayed the trust of Denver voters.”

Polygraph: Nothing But The Truth

Facts: In a Nov. 2007 editorial, the Denver Post attached that phrase to the Denver City Council’s plan to override then-mayor John Hickenlooper’s veto of a plan to give bonuses to city workers.

Claim: “The Hickenlooper administration called it irresponsible.”

Polygraph: Leans Deceptive

Facts: The ad cites a Nov. 8, 2007, story in The Denver Post. No story in the Nov. 8, 2007, Denver Post covered the pay raise issue. A story in the Nov. 9, 2007, edition did. While Hickenlooper clearly was against the plan, that phrase “irresponsible” was not included in Denver Post coverage of his veto.

Claim: “Michael Hancock, raiding the budget to give millions in bonuses to city workers as our deficit grew.”

Polygraph: Gray Area

Facts: The ad cites a Nov. 6, 2007, Denver Post story; the phrase “raiding the budget” doesn’t appear.The ad cites a Nov. 6, 2007, Denver Post editorial headlined “Raid on Mayor’s bonus.” The Hancock campaign says the money in question was transferred from a bonus-pay program to a merit-based plan and didn’t affect the 2008 budget.

Claim: “Now, Denver faces a $100 million shortfall. Dozens of cops and firefighters could be laid off, and libraries closed.”

Polygraph: Nothing But The Truth

Facts: Denver’s budget shortfall for next year is expected approximately $100 million. Both of the mayoral candidates have said streamlining in the both the police and fire departments may be necessary. On April 22, The Post reported that up to half of the city’s libraries could close if the system
is forced to cut $2.5 million from its budget next year.

Claim: “Yet Hancock votes himself a $5,000 raise …”

Polygraph: Leans Deceptive

Facts: The Romer campaign points to a January 2007 vote in which Hancock joined 10 other council members in voting to increase the pay for council members elected to serve four-year terms beginning in July of that year. The vote increased council members salaries by roughly $5,000.

Two problems with that claim: The legislation reads: “Council cannot change its own salaries; and any approved increases apply to the next set of elected public officials.” Additionally, the Romer ad cites a March 22, 2011, Denver Post article as the source.

The pay raise supported by Hancock in the March 21 vote this year will give incoming council members a $5,000 raise; the new mayor will receive a $10,000 boost. However, the raises were deferred for the first two years, not going into effect until 2013. Also, Hancock did not seek re-election to the City Council, so the only way he could receive a raise would be to win the mayoral election. Nine days after voting for the raise, Hancock he said he would not accept it if elected.

Claim: “…and promises another pay hike for city workers.”

Polygraph: Leans True

Facts: Hancock said he is in favor of a raise for city workers but adds that it would only make salaries competitive after recent pay cuts.