DALLAS — Where is Dallas County District Attorney Susan Hawk?
That's the question reverberating around the halls of the Frank Crowley Courthouse.
"She either needs to show back up to work or explain where she is, because she has a public job, and the public — under these circumstances especially — I think would like to know where she is," said former District Judge John Creuzot, a one-time Hawk supporter. "It's unusual to disappear and not have any official word as where you are, and it lends itself to a lot of speculation... and that's not good."
Creuzot and others are left baffled by the Republican DA's seeming disappearance from her job and from public view. The concerns and questions are coming from Republicans and Democrats alike.
For more than a week, News 8 has been asking the district attorneys' office to detail the DA's whereabouts. Mari Woodlief, Hawk's spokeswoman, previously said the DA left for "summer break" on August 3 and was due back to work sometime this week. Woodlief said she would check with the DA to find out what day she would be returning to work.
But with the DA's unexplained absence entering its fourth week, the questions just keep mounting. It has also prompted calls from the local Democratic Party for Hawk to either return to work... or resign.
"I'm very concerned, because — for one thing — nobody over there seems to be able to have a consistent statement about where she is," said Carol Donovan, chairwoman of the Dallas County Democratic Party. "Susan needs to evaluate whether or not she can do this job ... she needs to make a decision whether she's going to come back and do the job, or if she's going to resign. But there isn't an in-between where you can let the office just go out in limbo."
As the county's top law officer, Hawk makes $217,000. She oversees about 500 county employees, including about 250 prosecutors. Hawk took office January 1, promising that she'd right the troubled ship left behind by her Democratic predecessor, Craig Watkins.
But Hawk has been dogged by controversy nearly from the start:
- Over her sudden firings of high-ranking prosecutors and veteran investigators
- Over questions about her competence and mental stability
- Over admissions earlier this year that she secretly sought drug treatment while on the campaign trail
Hawk's former second-in-command and another high-ranking prosecutor have both said publicly that Hawk is neither stable nor competent to continue on the job. Both of them have described a pattern of paranoid, irrational behavior. Other former employees have described similar behavior.
"People are scared," former investigator Edith Santos told News 8 in a recent interview. "They wonder when they will be next. People cannot work in that environment. Dedicated, hardworking prosecutors, investigators, and staff are working in a hostile work environment, and no one should have to endure and work under those conditions."
For weeks, rumors and gossip have been swirling around the courthouse after Hawk dropped out of public view. Jokes have abounded about the MIA DA, and it's been the talk of the building for weeks among judges, lawyers and her employees.
"Nobody's got an answer," said attorney Tom Nowak, Hawk's Republican primary opponent. "You can't ask anybody at the DA's office because they don't know, either."
Asked about rumors that the DA was back in rehab, Woodlief flatly called those rumors "false."
Creuzot said he believes Hawk owes the public an answer about where she's been.
"If she is in some type of treatment program, I think she owes it to the public to disclose that," he said.
The rumors have taken on a life of their own as Hawk has repeatedly either failed to appear at scheduled events in recent weeks or canceled at the last minute.
In late July, Hawk was scheduled to be on a panel of district attorneys in San Antonio. She called that morning and said she was sick and could not make it. She also canceled a recent appearance as a keynote speaker at an event benefiting a group of sexual assault survivors.
"It doesn't seem to be a planned summer break because she's canceled all of her longstanding appointments," Cruezot said. "I think they're worried about her health and mental stability, based on issues that have come up with those that have worked with her, but we feel kind of helpless because there's not much you can do."
Nowak said Hawk's employees don't know what to think.
"They're probably glad she's not there, but at the same time they're scared about that she might come back," Nowak said. "Nobody really knows what to expect when she is there."
He said Dallas County taxpayers are not getting what they paid for.
"As an elected official, you're on 24-7, 365 days out of the year," Nowak said. "You have to be defending people, doing the things that an elected DA is supposed to be doing, and when people don't see you doing that then they're not really getting what they paid for."