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Open letter to the public and elected officials

Updated: May 5

  • In 2021, three employees reported Public Works director Jon Hutchings for sexual harassment.

  • In October 2022, Hutchings resigned the day before a third-party investigator interviewed these employees who reported Hutchings had made sexual comments to them or touched them inappropriately while at work.

  • In November 2022, “As a legal condition of Hutchings’ departure, county leaders also agreed not to disclose information about his misconduct to future employers,” as specified in the Separation Agreement (accessible here) signed by County Executive Satpal Sidhu.

  • County Executive Satpal Sidhu and Deputy Executive Tyler Schroeder then wrote a “letter of introduction” for Hutchings (accessible here), concluding, “It has been a pleasure working with Jon and I am very confident that he will serve your organization well.”

  • Hutchings now runs the Public Works department for the City of Lynden.

  • In November 2023 the County Executive approved a payment of $225,000 to settle claims arising from the pattern of sexual harassment.

  • “The county’s outside investigation was never finalized and “absent a response” from Hutchings, the county declined to issue any findings, according to a letter sent to Hutchings on Feb. 20, 2024, from the county and obtained by Cascadia Daily News.”

It was bad enough that the County Executive and his team did not disclose the $225,000 settlement or the reasons for it to the County Council. And it’s disturbing that the County Executive and his team covered up the conduct that led to Hutchings’ departure. But the continued coverup of the letter of recommendation is a de facto approval of Hutchings’ conduct, and is completely unacceptable. These actions betray basic shared values. 


Satpal Sidhu has sworn an oath to uphold the laws of Whatcom County. According to county code 3.05.020, settlements greater than $25,000 require approval of the County Council. The County Executive chose to not seek approval for the settlement, in apparent violation of county code.


Hundreds of public employees have had to work in an environment that fails to protect them from harassment because administrators – both appointed and elected – place their relationships with each other ahead of their duty to employees and the public.

Responding to Councilmembers on Tuesday April 23, the County Executive wrote, “The request for the letter of introduction was a difficult one for us. Mr. Hutchings had in many ways served the County well, and yet he also violated our standards of conduct policy. Ultimately, we do not believe that a person is solely defined by their mistakes, and Mr. Hutchings had faced the very real consequence of losing his job. We agreed to sign a letter of introduction which highlighted the good work which he accomplished for the County but was silent on the circumstances of his departure. We understand that not everyone will agree with our decision.”


We find these actions indefensible. The County Executive still acknowledges no fault on his part. The Executive – who signed the key documents – was an active participant in covering up sexual harassment of employees. He is unwilling to acknowledge his own responsibility in hiding harassment and in moving a known sexual harasser to a different management job. This undermines trust in his ability to ensure the level of change needed to prevent this from happening in the future. We welcome promises to expand training and accountability, but the fact these actions are occurring only after exposure by the press underscores the need for new leadership.


We believe the County Executive should step down and issue a public apology to the victims. Whatcom County deserves an executive committed to delivering a discrimination and harassment-free workforce, with full transparency with county council members and the public. We invite Democratic elected officials to weigh conscience and basic values against party loyalty and political expediency and join us in calling for a resignation. Apart from a courageous minority, the other party refuses to hold its own elected officials accountable. We can and must do better.


Adopted by unanimous vote at April 24, 2024 special meeting of the Whatcom Democrats Executive Board.


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My experience in Whatcom County and City of Bellingham? Both are fronts for a criminal syndicate. Local media covers up the crimes.

Mi piace

The system does not improve if all we do is fire our elected officials when the root issue is a faulty system and a network of individuals who are complicit in faulty behaviors. The investigation surrounding this claim requires more information to absolve it. Restitution for bad behavior in a workplace is not fixed by passing the buck to the person in charge, and certainly is not rectified by hush money in the form of discreet legal payoffs. The standards in a workplace need reforms: proper incident reporting and addressing of complaints. Personnel are bound to uphold the laws and Exec Satpal did not report an exceeded dollar amount to County Council for review. Is he being asked to resig…

Mi piace
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