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Demand transparency in county council investigation

Two months ago, the Whatcom County Council voted unanimously to conduct an independent investigation into Whatcom County’s handling of sexual harassment reports involving their former Public Works Director, Jon Hutchings, which resulted in the County paying $250,000 to settle a lawsuit with the accuser. County Council formed a three-member committee (Barry Buchanan, Todd Donovan, and Ben Elenbaas), although the specific scope and activities of this committee remains ambiguous. 

On June 18, council members did receive an update from the investigative committee members on its work so far: the committee has conducted 10-11 interviews with county staff, identified room for improvement in policies and procedures, and hope to summarize their findings in a report by July. During the meeting, Councilmember Galloway asked for more transparency about the committee’s work. 

We agree with Galloway that we need clarity about the investigative committee’s marching orders, and we support a truly independent investigation run by an outside entity instead of county staff. 

It’s time to speak up! Council members need to continue hearing from us that this is an important issue for our community in terms of accountability, to understand how our tax dollars were spent, and to ensure that county employees have a safe and inclusive work environment. (Have you read the letter that county employees sent to council?)

Keep the pressure on!

Email council members or participate in an  upcoming County Council meeting to let them know you support one or all of the following:

  • Provide more transparency about what type of work will be conducted by the investigative committee.
  • Assign a special prosecutor because the county’s attorney, George Roche, appears to have a conflict of interest since he previously worked on this case.
  • Assign a third-party, independent investigator to: evaluate how the County handled the Hutching’s sexual harassment report; evaluate harassment policies as they compare to model policies and best practices; and conduct an independent audit to determine how staff feel about harassment in the workplace, including whether harassment complaints have been handled properly.