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Former Hennepin County Sheriff Dave Hutchinson paid for the vehicle and guardrail he destroyed while driving drunk with money he got from a workers' compensation settlement with the county.

The Hennepin County Board approved the $240,000 settlement with Hutchinson after discussing it during an Oct. 10 legal briefing that was closed to the public. Hennepin County released the settlement agreement and the payment amount this week in response to questions and a records request from the Star Tribune.

Hutchinson's tumultuous term as sheriff received renewed scrutiny last week when seven of his former employees filed a lawsuit against Hennepin County. They alleged county leaders didn't do enough to address a workplace filled with "bigotry and fear" under the former sheriff.

Hutchinson's settlement

The October settlement with Hutchinson included the county deducting $40,961 for the totaled vehicle and $6,351 for a guardrail Hutchinson destroyed in a December 2021 drunken-driving crash.

According to the settlement, the payment resolved Hutchinson's claims for workers' compensation and disability health care. County leaders declined to comment, and attempts to reach Hutchinson and his former attorneys were unsuccessful.

Hutchinson said he was injured in the line of duty while serving as sheriff and in March 2023 was awarded disability retirement benefits from the Public Employees Retirement Association, the settlement said. The nature of his injuries was not disclosed.

County officials disputed liability for the on-the-job injuries Hutchinson said he suffered. The county also refused to continue his health insurance coverage.

County officials, Hutchinson, and his lawyer held a mediation session Oct. 3 where they agreed to the settlement and the repayment for the vehicle and guardrail. A week later, the County Board approved the deal after the closed legal briefing.

State law allows government leaders to discuss some personal and legal matters in closed session.

In exchange for the payment, Hutchinson also agreed to drop all possible future claims against the county and to not apply for future employment with the county.

Hutchinson was driving faster than 126 mph and had a blood alcohol level of 0.13% when he crashed the county's 2021 Ford Explorer in the early hours of Dec. 8, 2021. The wreck occurred outside Alexandria, Minn., as Hutchinson was returning home to Bloomington from a conference.

Hutchinson suffered multiple injuries in the crash, including broken ribs and vertebrae and a concussion. In May 2022, he went on paid leave for undisclosed health reasons, just weeks after county officials opened a probe into allegations Hutchinson created a hostile workplace.

After pleading guilty to misdemeanor drunken driving, Hutchinson agreed to pay the county $48,000 for the wrecked vehicle. His wages were garnished while he remained in office, and after his term ended in January 2023 he was on a payment plan.

In September 2023, the Minnesota Department of Transportation filed a small-claims court case to recoup the cost of the guardrail from Hutchinson and the county.