Dallas DA Takes 4-Week|Leave for Depression

      DALLAS (CN) – The Dallas County district attorney will take four weeks of unpaid leave to get treatment for depression, after disappearing from her job for a month.
     Citing a “serious episode of depression,” Susan Hawk, 44, said Tuesday that she needed the time off to ensure “this does not happen in the future” and that she is healthy.
     “It was my intention to return to work this week, but I have been unable to do so,” Hawk said in a statement. “I’ve decided that it would be in my best interest, and the best interest of the DA’s office, for me to take a four-week, unpaid leave of absence starting today and give this illness the professional attention it deserves.”
     Hawks’ press aide Mari Woodlief had said that Hawk left for a “summer break” on Aug. 3, but at least one judge and Hawks’ employees wanted more information.
     “I’m sorry that my absence has created this unnecessary distraction,” Hawk said in her statement Tuesday. “Please know that I’m fully committed to serving our citizens and working hard to make Dallas County a thought leader on criminal justice, and the most respect[ed] DA’s office in the nation.”
     Hawk, a Republican, was elected last year. She resigned as a Democratic state district judge in 2013 and switched parties to run against former district attorney and Democrat Craig Watkins.
     Hawk’s short tenure in office has been dogged with turmoil over her dealings with employees, including the controversial firing of seasoned prosecutor Bill Wirskye as her second-in-command in March. Hawk had accused him of breaking into her home and stealing a compromising photograph of her, The Dallas Morning News reported.
     “Susan Hawk is a good person,” Wirskye said at the time. “Although she did lodge an unfair and untrue accusation of criminal conduct at me, she later withdrew the accusation against me.”
     Wirskye has since been hired as special prosecutor by Collin County District Attorney Greg Willis. Wirskye served as special prosecutor in 2014 against Eric Williams, a former Kaufman County justice of the peace who murdered former Kaufman County District Attorney Mike McLelland’s wife – one of three people Williams was accused of killing.
     Shortly after she fired Wirskye, Hawk confirmed a report that she had spent a month in a rehabilitation facility during her 2013 campaign, for pain medication use associated with a bad back.
     “A doctor prescribed me medicine,” Hawk said at the time. “Over a year and a half ago, I decided I did not want to take it anymore, and I got help to quit taking it and haven’t taken any since. My family and friends – including Mr. Wirskye – knew about it.”
     Hawk fired three more employees in June, including 26-year investigator Jeff Savage, forensic examiner Jonathan Hay and legislative liaison Cristal Retana.
     On Tuesday, Dallas County Democratic Party Chairwoman Carol Donovan commended Hawk for disclosing the reason for her absence but was critical of how she “hid the truth for weeks” after “months of erratic behavior.”
     “If Susan cannot do her job, for herself and for her office, she should resign,” Donovan told the Morning News.
     Former investigator Edith Santos told WFAA-TV that staffers “are scared” of Hawk.
     “They wonder when they will be next. People cannot work in that environment,” Santos said. “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.”
     Depression in recent decades has increasingly come to be recognized as a medical problem, rather than a failure of character. Many states have enacted parity laws that require insurers to cover medical treatment for depression, though many insurers have been sued for refusing to do so.

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