A committee of the Hennepin County Board voted Thursday to recommend the censure of outgoing Sheriff David Hutchinson, an unusual step prompted by his violations of workplace discrimination and bullying policies.
The county had been investigating allegations made against Hutchinson for violating the county's "non-discrimination and respectful workplace" policies. The county retained a neutral, external investigator, who conducted interviews with the sheriff's staff.
The investigator contacted Hutchinson and his lawyer to participate in the inquiry, but they refused to cooperate, according to the county.
The investigator determined that Hutchinson engaged in a pattern of harassment and workplace bullying in violation of the county's nondiscrimination and respectful workplace policy, which includes racist, sexist, harassing, bullying and retaliatory behavior.
While the censure is mostly symbolic, the hearing Thursday is a signal from the County Board that its members believe Hutchinson failed to promote a respectful, cooperative work environment. The county is continuing to investigate the allegations against the sheriff.
Only a few minutes were spent on the matter at a county committee meeting Thursday before members voted unanimously for the censure. All seven members of the county board sit on the committee.
The full board is expected to take action on the censure at the upcoming Dec. 15 meeting.
Hutchinson is in the final weeks of his tenure in the post — he said earlier this year he wouldn't be running for re-election. Hennepin County Sheriff's Maj. Dawanna Witt was elected sheriff in November and will take office next month.
Few details about the two allegations were made public during the meeting. Board Chair Marion Greene would only say the investigation showed that Hutchinson violated the respectful workplace policy. County Administrator David Hough said the allegations were confirmed and that Hutchinson also violated the county's racial and bullying policies.
"He needs to be held accountable," Hough said. "Public censure is warranted."
When asked for further comment, Commissioner Chris LaTondresse said that the "action speaks for itself."
Hutchinson couldn't be reached for comment.
Hutchinson, who was elected in 2018 in an upset over former Sheriff Rich Stanek, has been on medical leave since May. Last December, he totaled a county-owned SUV after leaving a sheriff's conference in Alexandria, Minn.
He pleaded guilty to misdemeanor drunken driving, registering a blood alcohol level of 0.13, nearly double the legal driving limit. He admitted to having a drinking problem and checked himself into treatment.
He was ordered to pay for damage to the vehicle and has paid about $5,000, county officials said.
In September, the state's Board of Peace Officer Standards and Training took the unusual move of suspending Hutchinson's peace officer license. That took effect late last month.