Sheriff formally requests Governor Kemp remove Don Hawbaker from office

Donald F Hawbaker

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

STAFF REPORT :::

In a letter in which he referred to Commissioner Don Hawbaker as “a threat to the community and menace to society” whose actions “are worse than the actions of a gang member,” Spalding County Sheriff Darrell Dix requested Gov. Brian Kemp take steps to remove from office the elected official who remains in the Spalding County Jail, where he is being held without bond.

In a letter dated Feb. 12, Dix sought Hawbaker’s removal from office based on alleged illegal actions earlier in the month, specifically those detailed in four misdemeanor warrants – one for simple assault against his wife, Gayle Hawbaker, which was based on her report that her husband had pointed a handgun towards her, and three misdemeanor warrants for disorderly conduct against SCSO civilian employee Alicia Bolton, Maj. Dwayne Jones and Chief Deputy Tony Thomason. According to the three disorderly conduct arrest warrants, they were obtained based on reports that Don Hawbaker cursed when speaking on the telephone with Bolton and Jones, and that he cursed in a voice mail message left for Thomason.

In his letter to Kemp, Dix wrote, “On Tuesday February 4, 2020, my investigators met with Gayle Hawbaker and based on her statements and text messages, warrants were obtained for the arrest of Don Hawbaker. At the same time Mr. Hawbaker called the Spalding County Sheriff’s Office multiple times and verbally assailed several of my employees including at least three female civilian employees. In all, four misdemeanor arrest warrants were obtained on behalf of Gayle Hawbaker and my civilian staff.”

Dix then described in detail the standoff that resulted when deputies attempted to serve those arrest warrants on Don Hawbaker, including shots being fired and the use of the SCSO armored personnel carrier, which was driven through the front of the Hawbakers’ Sun City residence.

“On Wednesday February 5, 2020, Spalding County Commissioner Don Hawbaker appeared in front of Spalding County Magistrate Judge Rita Cavanaugh, (sic) Hawbaker has been charged with Simple Assault under the Georgia Family Violence statute, three counts of disorderly conduct for the ‘vile and egregious’ calls to my civilian staff members, and four counts of Aggravated Assault on Law Enforcement Officers for firing shots at my Deputies,” Dix wrote, adding that bond was then denied.

Dix, referring to prior claims alleging Don Hawbaker appeared to have been intoxicated during at least some of those prior incidents, said substance abuse should not be a defense for his actions.

“Spalding County Commissioner Don Hawbaker pointed a gun at his wife, shot at and attempted to murder my Deputies, pointed a gun at another Deputy causing that Deputy to shoot at him in fear of his own life, and showed belligerent behavior to my civilian staff. He believes, that in this incident and as demonstrated by past his (sic) behavior, that his is above the law and not accountable to anyone for his actions. That ended on February 4, 2020 and he should be held accountable just as anyone else would without the crutch of claiming intoxication or need of rehabilitation,” Dix wrote, then adding his view of Don Hawbaker’s actions. “I have been a law enforcement officer for 33 years and in my opinion, Don Hawbaker is a threat to the community and a menace to society. His actions are worse than the actions of a gang member. He is held to a higher standard as an elected official. He is entrusted with the governing of our community by the voters and taxpayers, and he tried to murder my Deputies.”

Dix has since received a response from Kemp’s office.

“On Wednesday February 12, 2020, the attached letter was delivered to Georgia Governor Brian Kemp. I am familiar with the process of removing an elected official from office but wanted to request that Governor Kemp act as soon as the law allows in this matter. I have also attached information from one of Governor Kemp’s staff attorneys, Tommy Ratchford, in response to the letter,” Dix said. “Mr. Ratchford wanted to let me know that Governor Kemp received my letter. He also stated that the process for this type of request is that if Spalding County Commissioner Don Hawbaker is indicted, the District Attorney will forward the indictment to the Governor. A review commission made up of the Attorney General and two County Commissioners from similar counties will review the case. If the review commission decides to suspend Hawbaker, his suspension will last through the entire appeal process, or until he is convicted of a felony. A felony conviction will immediately remove Hawbaker from office.”

Dix then addressed the issue of a grand jury presentment against Don Hawbaker, stating, “Since his arrest, another warrant has been obtained for Spalding County Commissioner Don Hawbaker charging him with an additional count of aggravated assault on a law enforcement officer. Our plan is to also present 5 counts of possession of a firearm during the commission of a crime, each count being a felony charge, to a Grand Jury in addition to the other felony and misdemeanor charges he is already facing.”
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Read Sheriff Darrel Dix’s letter to Gov. Brian Kemp here:
Dix letter to Gov. Kemp
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Don Hawbaker will appear in Spalding County Superior Court on Thursday, Feb. 20, for a bond hearing.

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