Mayor Michael Hancock gives a COVID-19 update in the City and County Building's Parr-Widener Room. May 5, 2020. (Pool photo by Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

Denver Mayor Michael Hancock has told the city’s board of ethics in a letter that his trip last year to Mississippi was a mistake but not a violation of the ethics code.

Hancock had made a Thanksgiving trip to visit family despite sending messages on social media and to city staff asking them to avoid travel because of the coronavirus pandemic.

“Stay home as much as you can,” Hancock tweeted about an hour before he boarded his flight. “Host virtual gatherings instead of in-person dinners. Avoid travel if you can.”

Hancock later apologized for his actions and acknowledged he disobeyed his own public guidance.

“As a public official, whose conduct is rightly scrutinized for the message it sends to others … I apologize to the residents of Denver who see my decision as conflicting with the guidance to stay at home for all but essential travel,” he tweeted.

A complaint to the city’s Ethics Board was filed in January by Denver resident Tonia Wilson.

Hancock said in his letter that Wilson’s complaint “seems to rely on incorrect facts and/or assumptions,” KCNC-TV reported. He did not specify what parts of the complaint were incorrect.

Wilson said the mayor’s decision to travel while telling constituents to stay home was unethical and showed that he “abus(es) his office for his own benefit and for the benefit of his immediate family members.”

The ethics board had voted unanimously in January to seek a formal response from the mayor.

“I regret my decision to travel over the Thanksgiving holiday,” Hancock wrote in his formal response. “It was a mistake for which I have taken responsibility and apologized to the people of Denver.”

The ethics board will meet again on Feb. 17 and is expected to consider the ethics complaint.

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