Troubled Sheriff Hutchinson Indulges in Meals and Trips, Taxpayers Get Tab Back

After his drunk driving accident in December, Hennepin County Sheriff Dave Hutchinson went on a spending spree, eating and traveling at taxpayer expense, though he was rarely seen in office.

FOX 9 investigators made a public records request for receipts and statements for his county-issued credit card, known as the P-card for the purchase.

During the four-month period between December 23, 2021 and April 22, 2022, Hutchinson spent $17,588 with her P-card.

A person familiar with the use of buy cards by former Hennepin County sheriffs Rich Stanek and Mike McGowen said Hutchinson’s spending was “extreme and questionable on the face of it.”

Reached by phone Thursday, Hutchinson said he was aware the county had reviewed its purchases.

“If they want to pay me nickel and money for a coffee, let them,” he said before hanging up.

RELATED: Hutchinson dossier shows sheriff repeatedly lied after 126mph drunk driving crash

Hennepin County Takes Note

Hutchinson’s meals in restaurants and cafes totaled $2,904.

Under Hennepin County’s food and beverage policy, expenses must “be infrequent and must be of a reasonable amount.”

Expense reports show that Hutchinson almost always dined with someone and ostensibly discussed law enforcement issues or county business. But in many cases, it’s difficult to identify the people Hutchinson dined with because the names on his P-card receipts are so often misspelled.

He dined 11 times during that four-month period at the Good Day Café in Golden Valley, spending a total of $667, records show. Eight visits to Perkins totaled $282.

The other meals were more extravagant. On April 9, a Saturday, Hutchinson and three guests dined at 6 p.m. at the Downtowner Woodfire Grill in St. Paul. Two people ordered the special for $42.

The stated purpose of the meeting was to discuss seniors’ mental health and safety. The bill was $247.

Big Bore Barbecue dinner on April 13 to talk about “West Hennepin safety issues” was $205.

A lunch at Bunny’s Bar and Grill on February 28 to plan a “water safety event” was $106.

Hutchinson’s spending at gas stations and car washes also raised eyebrows among those inside the sheriff’s office. There are no itemized receipts, but multiple receipts are followed the next day by similar charges.

For example, on February 18, Hutchinson got a car wash from Mister Car Wash in Edina ($21.51) and gasoline from Exxon Mobil in Bloomington for $91.56. The next day, February 19, he received more gas and sundries at a BP station in Bloomington ($45.09) and another car wash at Mister Car Wash ($43).

RELATED: Sheriff Hutchinson accused of creating a hostile work environment, sending racist and homophobic texts

11 Uber rides for a one-day conference

Before leaving office in January 2023, Hutchinson hoped to polish his resume and develop into an expert in mental health, wellbeing and crisis management, according to multiple sources familiar with his activities and stated motivations.

In February 2022, Hutchinson used his P card to pay $2,150 for an online course through Harvard Professional Development in “Advanced Negotiation Skills.” It is not known whether he took the courses.

There was a three-day trip to Phoenix, Arizona from March 31 to April 2 to attend a one-day human trafficking conference on Friday April 1. With hotel and plane, the trip cost $2,700.

Even though his hotel was 3 miles from the conference and 4 miles from the airport, he took 11 Uber and Lyft rides for a total cost of $263.

Current and former members of the Sheriff’s Office command staff tell FOX 9 investigators that Hutchinson is considering moving to Arizona.

During a staff meeting via videoconference in March, Hutchinson showed his staff members the properties he was considering buying in the Phoenix area, according to two people present at the meeting.

It wasn’t just about meals, travel and training.

There were other items Hutchinson put on his P card that may violate Hennepin County policy.

Taxpayers picked up Hutchinson’s dry cleaning for $89.74.

Hutchinson bought a portable white noise generator for $240. A member of his staff said the sheriff was afraid people in the office could hear his phone calls.

Current and former members of the sheriff’s command staff said expenses rose after Hutchinson’s drunk driving accident in December, when he totaled his county-issued SUV.

“He (Hutchinson) said if they had to get me the SUV back, he was going to take the county by any means,” said a sheriff’s command staff member who spoke on condition of anonymity because he said. fear of retaliation in the workplace.

Hennepin County is garnishing Hutchinson’s annual salary of $186,000 by $250 per paycheck to recoup the $47,711 cost of his 2021 Ford Explorer ST.

Hutchinson went on sick leave on May 18 and in a brief phone conversation Thursday confirmed he had recently filed a disability claim for PTSD.

Since his drunk driving episode, Hutchinson has rarely been seen in the sheriff’s office, according to multiple sources at the office.

“He would come in and walk around the office once a week and then leave. We had no idea where he was,” said the official who estimated Hutchinson had been seen in the office “at more” about five hours. hours per week.

County seeks refunds

On April 22, the Hennepin County administration apparently had enough, canceling trips and training seminars planned by Hutchinson. Then the county started asking for refunds.

Hutchinson’s trip to Atlanta from May 1-3, for an undisclosed purpose, was reimbursed $1,369 with airfare and accommodations.

Another trip to Manchester, New Hampshire, on May 23 for a law enforcement mental health and suicide conference was also canceled and a first-class ticket ($667) and conference fee ($225 ) were reimbursed.

Hennepin County also received reimbursement for a US$597 Concealed and Carry (USCC) course at Riverside Sporting Gear in Elk River that would qualify Hutchinson to become a concealment and carry instructor.

There was also a $250 reimbursement from Glock Inc. for a course in how to maintain and repair Glock pistols. Only Smith & Wesson handguns are licensed and approved for use by Hennepin County Deputies, according to the Hennepin County Sheriff’s Office Policy Manual.

Hennepin County Administrator David Hough confirmed only two complaints against Hutchinson and said state privacy laws prevent him from sharing details. Spokespersons for the Hennepin County and Hennepin County Sheriff’s Office declined to answer detailed questions about the alleged business or law enforcement purpose of several of Hutchinson’s expenses.

FOX 9 reported Sunday that Hutchinson is currently the subject of a hostile and discriminatory workplace complaint from his command staff. Hennepin County has hired an outside investigator to look into allegations of workplace hostility. It is unclear whether this investigator prepared a report.

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