DALLAS -- The 13-month saga is over. Susan Hawk is no longer Dallas County’s District Attorney.
"It's the right decision for her,” said friend, supporter, and former Dallas County Prosecutor Toby Shook. "Obviously, she knows best. She has the reputation of being a fighter, and now she feels that it's best that she resign the office."
She released a statement Tuesday that read, in part:
“I made a commitment to step away from the office if I felt I could no longer do my job, and unfortunately I’ve reached that point."
The statement was met immediately by reaction from around the county and across the state.
“The Dallas Police Association supports Susan Hawk and her decision to step down as the Dallas County District Attorney to continue her treatment for depression,” said Dallas Police Association President Ron Pinkston. “It’s our hope and prayer that Susan’s decision to resign will allow her to focus 100% of her time and effort on her recovery.”
State Senator Don Huffines added, “I appreciate Susan Hawk’s decision to put the residents of Dallas county first by resigning. Law and order requires the constant attention and vigilance of a district attorney. I wish Susan Hawk well in her future endeavors, and I pray for her health and well-being."
It wraps up an affair that began last August with her disappearing from her office for weeks, followed by a mystery vacation.
We found out later that Hawk was grounded by depression and treated at a facility in Arizona.
“I am sorry that Ms. Hawk is unable to serve out her term as Dallas District Attorney,” Haney said. “I think it is concerning that she has taken so long to recognize that she was unfit for the office. I think she did a disservice to the citizens of the county when she ran for the office knowing that she was suffering from acute mental illness. It was our knowledge of her condition and her inability to perform that drove our efforts to have her removed from office last year. We hope she gets the help she needs for her condition, and that Dallas County finally has a qualified office holder who can do the job."
Toby Shook was one of the lawyers and friends that stumped for Hawk during the election that put her in this seat, and Tuesday he was only thinking about what the past year has been like for the now-former DA.
"It's been hard for her, obviously. Luckily there were people in place that could keep the office day to day operations running, but it's been a struggle,” Shook said. "I'm sure it's been a tremendous struggle for her.”
Hawk's resignation letter took a chance to include some of the District Attorney's Office's accomplishment during her short time leading the way. Among those was:
- Improving overall efficiency by reducing the cost of disposition per case
- Increasing trust and transparency by putting an external audit process in place for forfeiture fund expenditures
- Securing more than $2 million in grant funding to support additional resources and services in the Sexual Assault and Family Violence units
- Creating the Community Response Team, which targets offenders who pose the biggest threat to the community
- Creating the DA in Schools program, targeting at-risk communities to build a positive relationship between targeted communities and law enforcement
The resignation comes at a fortunate time for Republicans wanting to hold that valuable DA seat. If she’d resigned before August 26, there would’ve been an open election to replace her.
By leaving now, 11 days after that cutoff, she gives Republican Governor Greg Abbott the chance to appoint her successor. That person serves until 2018, the end of her original term.
Texas Democrats say this move wasn’t an organic one. It was planned to deny their voter base a chance at helping fill this important position.
“The timing of this decision is purely political,” said Texas Democratic Party Executive Director Crystal K. Perkins. “If made less than a week ago, Dallas County voters would have had an opportunity to vote for the candidate of their choice this November. It could not be clearer: Greg Abbott and Texas Republicans have no regard for the voters of Dallas County. This is politics at its worst.”
Perkins added, “We wish Susan Hawk the best on her recovery. Mental illness is a serious issue affection millions of Texans and their families."
As for who that replacement might be? The governor’s office has only just begun.
Gov. Abbott’s Press Secretary John Wittman said, “Upon receipt of Susan Hawk’s resignation letter, the Governor’s Appointments Office will begin accepting applications and will take the appropriate time to ensure the replacement is the best suited to serve the citizens of Dallas County.”
State Senator Huffines said he plans to be part of that process.
“I will work closely with Governor Greg Abbott on the appointment of a qualified individual who will serve Dallas taxpayers by ensuring justice is carefully administered and zealously guarded in Dallas County,” he said. “I look forward to working with our new District Attorney to reduce over-criminalization, reform civil asset forfeiture, and make criminal justice work better for taxpayers, crime victims, and the accused alike."
DPA President Pinkston had one thought on the matter.
"The District Attorney’s office is vital to protecting the families of Dallas County and we urge Governor Abbott to appoint someone who shares Susan’s commitment to justice and public safety,” he said.
As for Hawk, it looks like her hunt for health and happiness has a long way to go.