MINNEAPOLIS — Hennepin County officials announced Thursday Sheriff David Hutchinson is taking a leave of absence due to "health-related reasons."
They went on to say the leave of absence will be for the "indefinite future." County officials confirmed Chief Deputy Tracey Martin will now assume operations on behalf of the Hennepin County Sheriff's Office. According to state law, Hutchinson will continue to receive pay and benefits throughout his leave, a county spokesperson said.
The news comes after months of controversy surrounding the sheriff, after he admitted to driving drunk in December 2021, crashing his county-issued vehicle near Alexandria. Hutchinson had been driving back to the Twin Cities following the Minnesota Sheriff's Association 2021 winter conference at the Arrowwood Resort when he crashed. He suffered non-life threatening injuries.
A search warrant filed in Becker County alleged Hutchinson first denied driving the vehicle he later admitted to crashing. The complaint further stated a Douglas County sheriff's deputy at the scene noted a "strong odor of alcoholic beverage," "slurred speech," and "poor balance" from Hutchinson, as he repeatedly told the officer that he was not driving. The warrant states Hutchinson told the deputy "he had called a cab" and that "the cab driver was driving the vehicle."
Black box data recovered from Hutchinson's SUV showed the sheriff was going 126.2 miles per hour, three-and-a-half seconds before the vehicle left the road and rolled.
In a statement following sentencing for fourth-degree DWI, Hutchinson announced he enrolled into an outpatient treatment program to address his "issues with alcohol" and his "overall health."
After the crash, Hutchinson faced mounting pressure to resign, announcing in February 2022 he would finish out his term and would not seek reelection.
He released this statement as part of his announcement:
"I will not be resigning as Sheriff and will finish serving out my term in office," I refuse to be pushed out of my role as Sheriff by political figures with alternative motives which would likely come at the cost of safety and security of the residents of Hennepin County. I will spend the remainder of my term ensuring that the residents of Hennepin County continue to get the service they expect from our office."
A representative for Hennepin County says Hutchinson agreed to reimburse the county almost $48,000 for the damaged vehicle.
A handful of interested parties have announced they'll enter the race for Hennepin County sheriff this fall, including Mark Klukow — a 27-year veteran of the Minneapolis Police Department — and Major Dawanna Witt of the Hennepin County Sheriff's Office
Suwana Kirkland, director of Community Corrections in Dakota County, and Jai Hanson, who grew up in south Minneapolis and served with two metro area police departments over the last 14 years, have also thrown their hats in the ring.
No additional information was given about the nature of Hutchinson's "health-related" issues.
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