Dallas County DA Susan Hawk: Gone again?

Dallas County DA Susan Hawk: Gone again?

DALLAS -- After two lengthy leaves of absence, there are renewed questions about the whereabouts of Dallas County District Attorney Susan Hawk.

Last month, Hawk’s office announced that she had returned to work after spending 12 weeks away receiving inpatient mental health treatment at facilities in Houston and Arizona.

Since that announcement, Hawk has denied interview requests. Several judges and prosecutors say Hawk hasn't been seen around the courthouse over the past couple of weeks.

The Dallas County District Attorney’s Office has declined repeated requests to answer questions about Hawk’s work status. Hawk’s office also declined to answer requests about whether she was in the office last week or this week.

“I think that’s troubling,” said former district judge John Creuzot, who is now in private practice. “I think that’s disturbing, and perhaps suggests that she hasn’t been there and that something’s wrong. […] Under these circumstances, the public deserves an answer.”

MORE: Reports on Susan Hawk

A large part of Hawk’s time in office has been spent away from the office battling what has been described as depression and mood disorders.

Last Friday was the deadline that would have allowed voters to pick her replacement in November's general election. If she were to resign, it will now be up to Gov. Greg Abbott to appoint a replacement to serve out the rest of her term.

Security access records obtained through the Public Information Act indicate that since her office announced her return to work on Aug. 11, she has been to work at the courthouse on an irregular basis. There was no usage recorded on her security card Aug. 11. Her card was used on Friday, Aug. 12, and Aug. 15 through Aug. 18.

There was no usage on Friday, Aug. 19 nor on the following week of Aug. 22 through Aug. 26.

Records weren't available this week because people who normally pull the records were out of the office for the holiday weekend.

The records aren't a perfect accounting of Hawk’s work schedule in that they don't account for situations when she may have worked away from the office, but they do provide a pretty good reflection on how often she was on the job.

Hawk took office to great fanfare in January 2015. When she beat incumbent Democratic District Attorney Craig Watkins, she was the first Republican to win a countywide race since 2004.

“I was just excited as I could be,” said Bob Hinton, a Dallas defense attorney and close friend of Hawk’s. “It was a great day for Dallas County.”

But things quickly unraveled.

There were a string of controversial firings -- including her highly respected second-in-command Bill Wirskye and former Republican District Judge Jennifer Balido -- shortly after she took office. Then there were reports of paranoid, bizarre behavior.

In March 2015, Hawk admitted her problems began as early as her campaign for office. She said that in late 2013 she sought treatment in Arizona over her use of prescription drugs, which she said were prescribed for a bad back.

That summer, Hawk disappeared from the courthouse. Friends initially lied, saying she was merely away on vacation. But as the courthouse speculation and media frenzy intensified, Hawk finally acknowledged she was suffering from serious depression and had gone into treatment at a Houston psychiatric hospital.

Hawk returned to work on Oct. 1, 2015, after being away for about nine weeks.

“I'm well now,” she told News 8 at the time. “Just give me the opportunity to show that I am. I would step down if I couldn't do it. I know the difference between being well and not being well.”

In October of 2015, Cindy Stormer, a former high-ranking prosecutor fired by Hawk, filed a petition to remove Hawk from office. At the time, Stormer called Hawk a "threat to Dallas County" because of her drug addiction, mental illness, and alleged paranoid delusions. In January, Bexar County Judge David Peeples dismissed the suit, allowing Hawk to remain as the district attorney.

But in May, Hawk again began cancelling public appearances, prompting renewed questions about her status. Only then did the DA’s office issue a statement acknowledging that she was back in treatment.

Hinton said he was shocked when he heard that she had ended up back in treatment. He said he saw her in her office in early May and they both talked about upcoming vacations.

“She was very upbeat, [and] looked great,” Hinton said. “It appeared that she was firing on all eight cylinders.”

But county access card records show in the months prior to her leave in May, she only reported to her job -- which pays $218,000 a year -- on a sporadic basis.

Prior to Aug. 11 and since the start of the 2016 year, Hawk had reported to work at the courthouse just 66 days.

First Assistant District Attorney Messina Madson has been in charge of the office during the times that Hawk was on leave.

Hinton said he has not spoken to Hawk since she returned to work last month. He said it’s been “heartbreaking” to see all of his friend’s difficulties.

“It’s just like any under illness,” he said. “It’s got to be treated and hopefully controlled.”

Hinton said he does not want to see his friend step down from her position.

“She’s a very smart person when she’s on her game,” he said. “When she’s well, she’s a very, very good organizer and has a good head on her shoulders.”

Copyright 2016 WFAA


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