A former employee of the Dallas County District Attorney's Office has filed a petition to remove District Attorney Susan Hawk from her job. Cindy Stormer, Hawk's former administrative chief, filed the removal suit Tuesday, claiming that Hawk is unfit to serve because of her alleged drug abuse, financial impropriety and erratic behavior.
Hawk has, according to the suit, "demonstrated gross ignorance of official duties; gross carelessness in the discharge of those duties; unfitness and inability to promptly and properly discharge of official duties and official misconduct because of a serious physical or mental defect that did not exist during her election. DA Hawk's depression and severe mental illness incapacitates her ability to perform the duties of that office."
Tto get rid of a county official in Texas, someone with personal knowledge must file a complaint that the official is unfit to serve for one of three reasons. The official must be incompetent, guilty of official misconduct or being intoxicated by an alcoholic beverage while on or off duty. The Texas local government code does not mention drugs that aren't alcohol, something Potter County district attorney and removal suit expert Scott Brumley told us in March could be an issue were an attempt made to remove Hawk from office. Any evidence providing for Hawk's potential dismissal must not have been available to voters when they elected the former judge in 2014.
Since being elected, Hawk has admitted that she sought treatment for painkiller abuse during her race against Dallas County's former district attorney, Craig Watkins. She claims she got hooked on the pills following back surgery and has successfully kicked the habit. The removal suit points to that admitted painkiller use, but it also claims that Hawk abuses an Adderall-like medication she began taking for attention deficit disorder.
Over the summer, the suit notes, Hawk disappeared for an extended period with what we now know was a bout of severe depression. After she stopped showing up to work in July, Hawk did not return until early October following an in-patient stint in a Houston treatment facility.
"She was out for approximately 10 weeks; refused to answer questions immediately upon her return, and never indicated where she was until she returned. DA Hawk's absence continued for weeks with the local news media referring to the situation as 'desperately seeking Susan'. At no time prior to her election had she ever claimed or suffered from major depression," Stormer says in the suit.
According to Stormer, Hawk's mental illness manifested itself in behavior that proves she is incompetent. Hawk, Stormer says, frequently exhibited paranoia. She thought employees had placed tracking software on her cell phone and were reading her email and that her then-top assistant, Bill Wirskye, had broken into her home to steal a compromising photo.
Hawk was delusional to the point of being unable to understand basic financial concepts, Stormer claims. The district attorney allegedly kept a $22,500 check on a public account in her possession for more than two months because, Hawk allegedly said, she thought it was her pay stub. Stormer says Hawk also repeatedly asked her to use public funds to pay for things that should've come out of Hawk's pocket, like professional organization dues or pizza. Stormer paid for many of the items herself, she says.
We Believe Local Journalism is Critical to the Life of a City
Engaging with our readers is essential to the Observer's mission. Make a financial contribution or sign up for a newsletter, and help us keep telling Dallas's stories with no paywalls.
Support Our Journalism
In a statement to The Dallas Morning News late Tuesday, Hawk's attorney Dan Hagood called the suit an "outrageous abuse of the system" and pointed out that the complaints only dealt with Hawk's pre-treatment behavior.
Tuesday's suit, filed by Stormer's attorney Kelly Puls, asks that a temporary district attorney be appointed as Hawk fights her removal. Because of the expedited calendar for removal actions, Puls says, Hawk has five days to respond to the petition. Puls said Tuesday that he believes in his client's case and isn't worried about the defense Hawk might mount.
"If she wants to have a defense of 'I was crazy before I ran,' let that be her defense," Puls says.