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Whatcom County Council must investigate mishandling of sexual harassment allegations

On April 19, Cascade PBS reported on Whatcom County’s handling of sexual harassment claims against former Public Works Director Jon Hutchings that resulted in the County paying out $225,000 to settle these allegations. The article also reported that Hutchings resigned the day before a third party investigation into these allegations was to begin, essentially forcing an end to the investigation before it got started. 

The Riveters Collective Board of Directors, via the letter below, urged the Whatcom County Council to use their investigative authority to determine how the County handled this and other harassment allegations. 

Dear Whatcom County Council Members, 

We write today in response to the April 19, 2024 Cascade PBS article on Whatcom County’s handling of multiple sexual harassment allegations involving former Public Works Director, Jon Hutchings. This article exposed extremely poor judgment and an utter lack of moral courage on the part of County Executive Sidhu. It also revealed a toxic workplace culture in which Hutchings, an alleged sexual harasser, not only evaded investigation and potential consequences, but benefited by receiving a strong letter of recommendation from Executive Sidhu to obtain a similar job with the City of Lynden. 

It is impossible for us to overstate our disappointment in Executive Sidhu and his administrative staff for their disregard and negligence in handling these serious allegations. The unbelievable next step of providing a glowing recommendation for Hutchings added insult on top of injury. We are concerned this case will have long-lasting ramifications. It has already sent the unfortunate message to current and potential employees that the County will not respond to reports of harassment and is not a safe, protected work environment. 

We call on you to use your authority to investigate the County’s handling of this and other sexual harassment allegations and report your findings to your constituents. These findings should then be used to improve sexual harassment policies and procedures to better protect those who report.


Riveters Collective Board of Directors