MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) -- Five of Hennepin County's seven commissioners and a Minneapolis City Council member have joined the call for Sheriff Dave Hutchinson to resign following his drunk driving conviction last month.
Hutchinson admitted to drinking before rolling his county-owned SUV on the early morning of Dec. 8 in Alexandria after leaving a Minnesota Sheriff's Association conference. His blood-alcohol content was almost twice the legal limit, and investigators say Hutchinson repeatedly denied being behind the wheel in the hours after the crash.
Hutchinson said in a statement Friday that he is "fully committed to continuing to serve the people of Hennepin County."
"I will let the citizens, not politicians, decide my future in November," he said.
District 3 Commissioner Marion Greene, who serves as county board chair, tweeted Thursday that Hutchinson's "actions and subsequent comments have eroded public confidence [in] his ability to serve and equitably enforce laws." She also wrote that several residents of her district have reached out to her with stories of how "drunken driving has impacted them and/or loved ones."
District 4 Commissioner Angela Conley also tweeted Thursday that she wants Hutchinson to resign immediately to "allow room for a leader who can do this work in a healthy place."
"Since he has refuse, the power is with the 1.2 million residents of the county to remove him next November," Conley wrote.
District 6 Commissioner Chris LaTondresse released a statement Thursday calling for Hutchinson's resignation, writing that the sheriff "endangered lives and violated the laws he took an oath to uphold and enforce." The commissioner also alluded to a comment Hutchinson made during last month's WCCO interview with reporter Jennifer Mayerle. When asked if he had ever driven drunk before the morning he crashed, Hutchinson replied "Everyone has at some point."
"This breakdown in trust makes delivering on the promise of public safety that much more difficult, especially for those who sacrifice and serve our community every day in their roles at the Hennepin County Sheriff's Office," LaTondresse wrote.
District 2 Commissioner Irene Fernando said on Twitter Wednesday that she sent a letter to the sheriff urging him to resign, calling his actions "egregious," and saying "his comments since the crash are unjustifiable."
"The only way to maintain the dignity of the Sheriff's office and to show respect for the laws you are sworn to uphold is to resign immediately," Fernando wrote.
Fernando said the sheriff's comment to Mayerle about drunk driving "harmfully normalizes dangerous behavior, and it disrespects the approximately 120 Minnesotan families who lost a loved one to alcohol-related crashes in 2021."
The commissioner also said she spoke with Hutchinson on the phone several days after the crash, urging him to take a leave of absence and seek treatment.
"You strongly disagreed, and since you are an elected official, I do not have the authority to place you on leave," Fernando wrote.
District 1 Commissioner Jeffrey Lunde, the county's chair of public safety, also announced Wednesday night that he's "in agreement" with Fernando.
"With the current tense climate around public safety, an incident like this involving the head public safety official of Hennepin County needs to be addressed," Lunde wrote in a statement. "Trust needs to be earned, and I know that accountability is central to building and maintaining this trust."
On Thursday, Minneapolis City Council Member Jamal Osman wrote on Twitter that he believes Hutchinson should leave office and focus on his recovery.
"I hope he takes care of himself, gets healthy, and works to rebuild the trust that this incident has broken. But he is not fit to be the Hennepin County Sheriff at this time and should resign," Osman wrote.
Sheriff Hutchinson also told Mayerle in last month's interview that he doesn't plan on resigning, and he will seek re-election.
Minnesota State Sen. Omar Fateh also called for Hutchinson's resignation last month, saying in part "I believe in second chances when it comes to chemical dependency, but the path to redemption requires accountability."
Hutchinson was convicted of fourth-degree DWI last month, and agreed as part of his plea deal to undergo random drug and alcohol testing. He's also forbidden from drinking alcohol and getting any driving violations. He told Mayerle last month that he has stopped drinking.
Since he is an elected official, the only way Hutchinson could be forced out is through a recall process.
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