Dallas County DA Susan Hawk Isn't Going Anywhere Unless She Wants To

Susan Hawk, the newly minted Dallas County district attorney, went to rehab to help kick the painkillers she was prescribed after back surgery. She admitted as much after the Morning News dropped a bombshell of a (mostly) anonymously sourced report last week. Just after she kicked off her campaign to unseat incumbent Craig Watkins in the fall of 2013, the paper said, she'd entered drug rehab in Arizona, despite her saying at the time that she was headed to the East Coast for back surgery.

Perhaps more damning was a source's claim that before she recently fired her first assistant, Bill Wirskye, Hawk accused him of using forfeiture funds to pay a Park Cities locksmith to make him a key to Hawk's house before he broke in and stole an incriminating photo of Hawk.

Almost immediately, D Editor Tim Rogers speculated on the magazine's Front Burner blog about Hawk's potential replacements -- he suggested both Wirskye and Watkins' 2006 election opponent Toby Shook as possible appointees -- which seemed quite reasonable. Surely, this was it for Hawk, who'd only been elected as anybody but Watkins.

Hawk issued a terse statement accusing Wirskye of attacking her character due to his firing and that was it, not even a hint she was thinking about resigning.

"I don't think she will [resign] nor do I think she should," Dallas County GOP chair Wade Emmert said. "I don't think since 2013 -- if her statement is right, then she has not used any of those painkillers since that time ... I think we should applaud her for seeking some assistance with getting off those pain medications rather than demonizing her for that. Until there's some proof that she is currently taking the medication inappropriately, I think we ought to let this play out."

Assuming Hawk doesn't resign, the only way for her to lose her chair in the District Attorney's Office would be a removal suit, an action that allows a county official to be removed from office based on a complaint based on personal knowledge that he or she is unfit to serve. There are three basic grounds for removal, Scott Brumley, the Potter County district attorney and an expert in removal suits said: incompetence, official misconduct or intoxication on or off duty caused by drinking an alcoholic beverage.

The statute, contained in Texas' local government code, says nothing about painkillers, and any claims of incompetence would have to be based on a situation that developed after the officeholder took office, Brumley said.

Darlene Ewing, the Dallas County Democratic Party chair, said that accusations Wirskye claimed Hawk made against him are more troubling than any drug rehab, but it's unlikely that she'll face a removal suit.

"What I would be concerned about is if her paranoid behavior keeps expanding. Apparently, that's why Jennifer Balido [another aide fired by Hawk] is out of a job, that's why Bill Wirskye's out of a job. I would think she would find it difficult to get people to come work for her," Ewing said. "You know, you're asking people to shut down a law practice and some paranoid delusion of hers can cost you a job. I think it's going to be hard for her to hire quality people."


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