HR investigation uncovers Sheriff Hutchinson's erratic, paranoid and hostile behavior

It is difficult to imagine things getting any worse for disgraced Hennepin County Sheriff Dave Hutchinson, who officially has only two more weeks left in office. And yet, here we are.   

After the Hennepin County Board of Commissioners voted Thursday to censure Hutchinson, the human resources investigation into a hostile and discriminatory work environment became a matter of public record. 

The racist, sexist, and homophobic text messages the FOX 9 Investigators reported on in July were fully documented in the report. 

But there was more. Much more. And it was bad. 

According to the outside human resources investigation, after his drunk driving crash last December, Hutchinson was seldom in the office and rarely communicated with senior staff. When he did, it was often hostile. 

The Sheriff’s Office Command Staff, as well as some civilian staff, said Hutchinson had become angry and paranoid, and they were concerned he would "snap," especially since he carried a weapon.    

A "surreal" meeting 

Hutchinson’s erratic behavior culminated in an April 19 meeting where he berated, threatened, and yelled at his Command Staff.    

It was so hostile that two members of the Command Staff left the meeting, one was crying, and another described the meeting as "surreal." Members of his Command Staff thought Hutchinson was having a mental breakdown and feared he might hurt someone.   

Hutchinson was furious that someone on his Command Staff was scrutinizing timecards for three administrative staff members who reported directly to the sheriff. 

Hutchinson said if he discovered who was looking into the timecards, the person would be fired.   

One member of his Command Staff said if they reported illegal or fraudulent behavior, the person would be a protected whistleblower. 

Hutchinson replied: "So you’re a whistleblower? Bring it on. There is nothing anyone can do to me." 

Hutchinson threatened to transfer people who raised concerns about timecards.   

A member of the Command Staff replied, "Dude, you can’t do that." Hutchinson yelled that it was disrespectful to call him "Dude," even though that language was apparently normal in the context of Command Staff meetings. 

Hutchinson was also angry that certain ‘wellness Initiatives’ had not been implemented. The problem was no one knew what he was talking about. Hutchinson hadn’t communicated any specific proposals.  

Hutchinson eventually stormed out of the meeting while threatening to put everyone on paid administrative leave.   

"You can’t cancel me" 

After the meeting, a member of the Command Staff called Chela Guzman-Wiegard, the Assistant County Administrator for Law, Safety & Justice, and informed her about Hutchinson’s erratic behavior.   

Hennepin County hired an outside investigator, Amy Kern & Associates, to conduct the investigation. Ten senior members of the Hennepin County Sheriff’s Office and Command Staff were interviewed. Hutchinson and his attorney declined to participate. 

Despite an ongoing human resources investigation, the days that followed didn’t get much better as Hutchinson tried to discover who had filed a complaint against him.   

The next day, Hutchinson said he was getting even angrier about the meeting and said he might come down to the Sheriff’s Office to "walk people out."   

"You can’t cancel me. I have already been canceled," Hutchinson told a member of his Command Staff.   

Four witnesses told the outside investigator they feared for Hutchinson "because of his behavior and emotional state since his accident," according to the final report.   

But the outside investigator found no evidence Hutchinson "threatened or planned to cause physical harm to anyone," the report said.  

Racist, sexist, homophobic messages 

The ten-page final report is filled with examples of "harassing, bullying and retaliatory behavior," most of which has been previously reported by the FOX 9 Investigators. 

On May 3, 2020, a command staff member asked Hutchinson if he needed information to prepare for a phone call with Minnesota Department of Corrections Commissioner Paul Schnell. Hutchinson responded using a sexual epithet. 

According to the investigation, it was common for Hutchinson, who is gay, to use derogatory labels about people’s sexuality. He would frequently greet one gay staff member with, "What’s up f----t." 

Hutchinson texted a staffer on April 14, 2021, "Libs run this country and state." The staffer replied, "Silent majority want law and order." Hutchinson replied, "Not in this f----t county." 

There were also racist messages, including the one he sent about an African American candidate running for Sheriff who was seeking the DFL endorsement. Hutchinson texted, "She get (sic) DFL for sure. Black all the (sic) care about." He added, "People are sick of black people getting things solely for being black." 

Hutchinson, who did not run for reelection, was the DFL-endorsed candidate when he beat former Sheriff Rich Stanek in November 2017.   

Hutchinson told a Black woman staff member, "The darker the berry, the sweeter the juice." 

Hutchinson had personal handles for several staff, like "the fat one" and the "office idiot." He called another "retarded" in front of a Command Staff member who has a family member who is developmentally disabled.   

"Burn baby burn" 

And it appears that many in law enforcement already knew about this kind of behavior from Hutchinson.  

The outside investigator found Hutchinson would join conference calls with law enforcement leaders across Minnesota and make crude comments or embarrassing jokes.  

After Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman declined to file charges against the officers who shot Amir Locke, Hutchinson wrote that it was good news and "burn baby burn," followed by several emojis of flames and buildings, an apparent reference to the civil unrest after the murder of George Floyd. 

The report also provides more disturbing context to Hutchinson's drunk driving accident last December after leaving a law enforcement conference in Alexandria.   

A lieutenant who was with Hutchinson said he made multiple crude comments about sex to the lieutenant and his wife. He said a sheriff from another county wanted to "f—k (his) wife." 

FOX 9 reached out to that other sheriff months ago. He said the incident occurred in the bar, and he couldn’t overhear exactly what Hutchinson had said to his lieutenant, "but knew it was nonsense," and removed himself from the situation.   

Hutchinson went on voluntary medical leave last May, a month after the human resources investigation began.  

He is currently working without pay after his law enforcement license was suspended for 30 days. His last day in office is January 2.