Sheriff Witt, others sue Hennepin County over Hutchinson's conduct

A group of longtime Hennepin County Sheriff's employees, including current Sheriff Dawanna Witt, has filed a lawsuit against the county over the toxic workplace environment under former Sheriff David Hutchinson.

Sheriff Witt is joined by six other plaintiffs who are all current or former sheriff's office employees and concerned that the county has failed to act to ensure this doesn't happen again.

FOX 9 has extensively reported on the claims about Hutchinson's behavior, which all came to light after Hutchinson was involved in a drunk driving crash in 2021.

FOX 9's investigation uncovered text messages showing Hutchinson making derogatory racial and homophobic comments. Despite the concerning HR investigation, Hutchinson's only punishment from the county was a censure by the Hennepin County Board. Though, some board members did call on Hutchinson to resign.

Hutchinson never did. Instead, he finished his term on paid medical leave but opted not to run for re-election. The election that Hutchinson bowed out of was won by Dawanna Witt.

The complaint filed by Witt, Danielle Baggett, Patrick King, Daniel Kurtz, Tracey Martin, Jeffrey Storms, and Tim Stout again accuses Hutchinson of using derogatory language and demeaning his subordinates because of their race, sexual orientation, or other protected status.

The lawsuit also accused Hutchinson of retaliation as the county began investigating some of these concerns in April 2022, allegedly threatening to "fire his entire Command Staff and Chief of staff for insubordination and take other actions to ‘address’ the ‘insubordination.’"

The accusations also include Hutchinson making threats to the accusers, warning that "karma would get them" and to "watch their six," the lawsuit adds.

The lawsuit explains: "He was also openly vindictive – he threatened to fire people and talked about killing people who crossed him, often dangerously waving his loaded service weapon around while doing so. Hutchinson was allowed to engage in this abhorrent behavior with impunity for several years."

In April 2023, the group claims Hutchinson even sent a "threatening package" to several plaintiffs, including a handwritten note saying: "BULLSH--! You should be ashamed."

Despite the concerning behavior and claims, the plaintiffs say the county never checked on plaintiffs or ensured they felt safe in their workplace.