Hennepin County has made public its human resources investigation that outlines dozens of racist, sexist, homophobic and bullying incidents involving outgoing Sheriff David Hutchinson.
In a text to the Star Tribune on Friday, the sheriff vigorously denied the allegations, saying he was the target of detractors because he's openly gay and that the investigator had made up her mind before interviewing witnesses.
The investigation started four months after Hutchinson crashed his county-owned vehicle following a night of drinking at a sheriff's conference in Alexandria in December 2021. Human resources was notified by staff who were concerned about his mental health and stability.
An independent investigator was hired by the county, who interviewed 10 senior staff members of the sheriff's office. The allegations confirmed in the 10-page report resulted in the county board approving a censure of Hutchinson this week.
Among the many policy violations listed in the report, Hutchinson texted a staff member about a white, suburban city council member and said, "She dates Black guys I bet." Hutchinson also referred to other law enforcement officers as gay.
After he learned that the officer who shot and killed Amir Locke wouldn't be charged, he sent a text that it was good news and "burn baby burn" with several emojis of flames and buildings. In front of a 5-year-old visiting the office, Hutchinson referred to a member of his command staff as "the fat one" and the "office idiot."
In his text response to the Star Tribune, Hutchinson said as one of the first openly gay sheriffs in the country and first in Minnesota, he knew that he would have many detractors and people second-guessing his every step.
Hutchinson continued in the text to say that all the allegations were false and that the findings were incorrect. He questioned the neutrality of the investigator, who he said made her decision before hearing from the staff.
"If the workplace I provided for my employees was so terrible, why wasn't there any turnover in the office under my watch?" he said. "Internal politics got the best of my office late in my tenure and these individuals turned to dirty tactics like distortion, backstabbing, lying and threatening others to save their careers."
The investigator, Amy Kern, interviewed Hutchinson's chief deputy, chief of staff, administrative assistant and several majors and managers. Also interviewed was Maj. Dawanna Witt, who was elected the new sheriff in November. Hutchinson and his attorney declined to participate in the investigation, the report said.
Because Kern is on a contract with the county, a spokeswoman said they couldn't determine the exact cost of the investigation.
While Hutchinson won't face any internal discipline for violating county policies, a spokeswoman said violations of the county's non-discrimination and respectful workplace policy will not be tolerated.
The report became public after the county board approved a censure of Hutchinson on Thursday. He has been on a health-related leave since May and will serve his last day in office Jan. 2 after deciding against seeking re-election for the $186,000-a-year position.
His peace officer license was suspended in November for a month in connection with the Dec. 8, 2021, crash.
The sheriff initially told state troopers at the scene of the crash along Interstate 94 that he wasn't the driver, but he later pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor drunken driving charge. Investigators have said Hutchinson was driving faster than 126 mph with a blood-alcohol level of 0.13%, above Minnesota's legal driving limit of 0.08%, at the time of the crash.
After he pleaded guilty, Hutchinson checked himself in a chemical dependency treatment program. He also agreed to reimburse the county $48,000 for the destroyed Ford Explorer.
In his text Friday, he said he admitted to his poor decisions and wished he could continue to heal without fabricated reports and hate. He said he has maintained his sobriety for more than a year and daily battles the mental health struggles of PTSD.
"Why kick a man when he is already down? What will they do when I'm gone?" he said.
The report details each of the allegations against Hutchinson, including:
- On multiple occasions when he saw someone he did not like, he would say, "Should we kill him?" and would put his hand on his gun.
- In 2019 he texted multiple members of his staff a picture he took of a topless woman he saw poolside at a hotel in Las Vegas.
- He frequently made crude comments about people wanting to have sex, claiming they were closet homosexuals or shaming them about their weight.
After the 2021 crash, staff members expressed concern for Hutchinson's well-being and said he became angry and paranoid. He also rarely showed up in the office and had limited communication with staff.
He threatened retaliation against staff who questioned his attendance. During one meeting, he bullied a staff member so badly the person burst into tears and two other members walked out, according to the report. People could hear him yelling outside the meeting room and called the episode surreal.
Hutchinson yelled at staff that they owed him loyalty and that he was the "real sheriff."
One member of the command staff stated that if one of them had reported illegal or fraudulent behavior, that person would become a protected whistleblower. Hutchinson reportedly said in reply, "So you're a whistleblower? Bring it on. There is nothing anyone can do to me."
Read the investigation into Sheriff Hutchinson here. Be advised that it contains offensive and racist language.