Hawbaker retains all rights as duly elected county commissioner

Donald F Hawbaker

Don Hawbaker Feb. 4, 2020, booking photo courtesy of the Spalding County Sheriff’s Office

SHEILA A. MATHEWS :::

Don Hawbaker, who is currently being held without bond in the Spalding County Jail, remains a member of the Spalding County Board of Commissioners.

Under Georgia law, governmental action to remove a commissioner may not be initiated prior to the official being indicted by a grand jury on a felony charge.

While Hawbaker is incarcerated, the Board is left with only four voting members, making the possibility of tied votes a distinct possibility. Asked if this could present be an impediment to the conduction of county business, County Manager William Wilson said, “We could have tied votes which would lengthen business, yes, ma’am. (It could) delay formal action by the Board of Commissioners.”

Asked how detrimental that may be, Wilson said he does not anticipate it causing a significant disruption.

“I don’t see it happening that much. If you look through our agendas, it doesn’t happen that often. It’s usually a unanimous vote,” he said. “It’s usually the more controversial votes that may be 3-2, so perhaps the more controversial votes may be delayed until we have a full five-member board again.”

The GRIP then posed questions regarding the future of the Board of Commissioners.

Q – Should Hawbaker later be granted bond, he would still be a member of the Board of Commissioners, correct?

A – That would be my understanding. He is still a member of the Board of Commissioners.

Q – With full voting privileges?

A – Just like any other member.

Should a governor desire to take action against an elected commissioner, they are required to await their indictment. Once a copy of the indictment has been received, the governor is required to wait a minimum of 14 days before appointing a review commission, which would consist of the Georgia attorney general and two county commissioners.

During that 14-day waiting period, the indicted commissioner may agree to a voluntary suspension. If they do not agree, the review commission will submit a written report to the governor.

The review commission may recommend a suspension from office if it is determined the indictment relates to and adversely affects the administration of their elected office and that the rights of the public.

The governor may, but is not required to, accept the advisory commission’s recommendation, and immediately suspend the commissioner.

If a commissioner is suspended, a replacement county commissioner would be appointed by either general law or a local act. If no legal provision exists to fill the vacancy, the governor will make an appointment to fill the vacancy.

Hawbaker has not yet been indicted, but remains jailed on eight charges – one count of simple assault, three counts of disorderly conduct, all misdemeanors, and four felony counts of aggravated assault against a law enforcement officer.

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