Outgoing Hennepin County Sheriff Dave Hutchinson is facing renewed scrutiny after reports by FOX 9 that he allegedly engaged in racist and homophobic behavior, and spent taxpayer money prolifically following his DWI arrest.
An investigation by FOX 9's Tom Lyden alleges the sheriff created a hostile work environment and used taxpayer dollars for expensive dinners and trips following the high-speed drunk driving crash in December, which led to him announcing he would not stand for re-election this November.
In a statement to Bring Me The News, the Hennepin County Sheriff's Office says it has engaged outside investigators to probe Hutchinson's conduct, and said it's "deeply disappointed and disheartened" by the allegations, which "run completely counter to our organization’s core values."
Hutchinson, who became the county's first gay sheriff when he was elected narrowly ahead of Rich Stanek in 2018, has been on paid medical leave since May 18, and recently filed for disability ahead of his departure from office.
FOX 9's reports following a record requests, and include the following allegations:
- That Hutchinson sent racist and homophobic text messages, including one saying "People are sick of black people getting things solely on being black."
- He created a "discriminatory and hostile" work environment, using slurs, intimidation, ridicule and threats towards subordinates.
- He threatened to retaliate against senior staff who were reviewing timecards to show he was falsifying work hours.
- Current and former staff members believe he's using his disability claim to "secure pension, avoid accountability and run out the clock on his term in office."
- He went on a spending spree at taxpayers' expense, an apparent attempt at "payback" because he had to reimburse the county for the squad car he totaled in his DWI crash.
Some of the expenses Hutchinson had used his county-issued credit card totaled more than $17,000 in the four months that followed his December arrested, and include:
- Nearly $3,000 spent at restaurants and coffee shops.
- 11 Uber trips for a one-day conference in Phoenix, Arizona.
- Dry cleaning for nearly $90.
- A purchase for a portable white noise generator so his colleagues couldn't "overhear his phone calls."
The Hennepin County Sheriff's Office provided the following statement to Bring Me The News regarding Hutchinson:
"The 800 men and women of the Hennepin County Sheriff’s Office (HCSO) take great pride in serving our residents with integrity, empathy, compassion, and professionalism.
"We are deeply disappointed and disheartened by these allegations, as they run completely counter to our organization’s core values. The reported incidents are currently under investigation by an outside entity; therefore our ability to comment is limited.
"We want to assure the public and all of our partners that our deputies and civilian staff remain fully committed to improving public safety and fulfilling our organization’s overarching mission, which is to serve and protect all in our community by furthering equal justice, safety, and wellness."
The only response from Hutchinson to FOX 9 relates to the credit card spending, with the sheriff commenting: "If they want to nickel and dime me for coffee, let them."
Hutchinson has been ordered to repay $47,711 for the damage to the 2021 Ford Explorer ST he destroyed, with the county garnishing his six-figure salary at $250 per pay check to recover the amount.