Attorney General Chris Carr announced Wednesday that the office’s Prosecution Division has indicted Paulding County District Attorney Donald Richard “Dick” Donovan on four felony charges: Bribery, False Swearing, (two counts) and Violation of Oath by Public Officer. A Paulding County Grand Jury returned the indictment on February 17, 2021.
75-year-old Donovan made headlines last year after an employee, identified in an AJC article after a federal lawsuit was filed as Jamie White, filed a complaint against him for sexual harassment. It prompted Donovan to use a court reporter to make a 93-page statement under oath, led to a pricey independent investigation, a still-open investigation by the GBI, and a complaint with the Georgia Commission on Equal Opportunity. It also put Paulding County taxpayers on the hook for a portion of the $300,000 settlement awarded following the lawsuit, which alleged the county did nothing to stop the harassment – even after she filed a complaint with Human Resources.
The indictment charges that Donovan committed the offense of bribery when he submitted an order dismissing criminal charges pending in Paulding County Superior Court against a client of the Cedartown Municipal Court prosecutor with the purpose of influencing this prosecutor’s decision regarding the disposition of criminal charges then pending in the Cedartown Municipal Court against an employee of Donovan’s office.
The indictment also charges Donovan made false statements in a sworn affidavit when he denied ever having said that he wanted to have sex with this same employee of his office and denied describing fantasies regarding his desire to be physical with this employee. In addition, the indictment charges that Donovan violated the terms of his oath of District Attorney by committing the offense of bribery.
If convicted, each count enumerated above is punishable as follows:
- Bribery: O.C.G.A. § 16-10-2(a)(1)- 1-20 years, and/or a fine up to $5,000
- Violation of Oath of Office: O.C.G.A. § 16-10-1 1-5 years, and/or a fine up to $100,000
- False Swearing: O.C.G.A. § 16-10-71 – 1-5 years, and/or a fine up to $1,000
The case was investigated by the Georgia Bureau of Investigation.
Because Donovan is a constitutional officer, he can only be removed from office after impeachment by the Georgia legislature or after removal by the Governor. If Donovan completes his term in office, he will be entitled to retirement and other benefits based on his employment in the district attorney’s office where his salary is $126,072.
SAGA OF SEXUAL HARRASSMENT ALLEGATIONS AND LAWSUIT
White alleged in her complaint that Donovan harassed her for more than a year despite her explaining to him that she was “uncomfortable with [his] advances” and only wanted a professional relationship. In her complaint, she wrote, “Eventually, I began to become very afraid of him and how uncomfortable I was around him.”
Donovan was quick to defend himself, sending his sworn affidavit to both the Prosecuting Attorneys Council of Georgia and the Paulding County government, but unbeknownst to Donovan, the complaint filed against him included audio files with secret recordings and a number of documents, which would later contradict a handful of Donovan’s statements made under oath.
Paulding County employed the services of Michael Walker of JARRARD & DAVIS, LLP, costing upwards of $43,000, for the purposes of conducting an independent investigation. The audio files and the accompanying investigative report, obtained under Georgia’s Open Records Act, include more than 180 pages of documents and upwards of four hours of audio files.
The investigation concluded that “many of her allegations were indirectly supported in whole or in part by Donovan’s own statements provided in his May 22,2019 affidavit given under oath. Specifically, the investigation found that:
“…there is clear and credible evidence to support that Mr. Donovan engaged in a somewhat continuous course of conduct from October 2017 through March 2019 in which: he repeatedly expressed his love for Complainant and suggested she loved him as well or would “one day”; he gave her substantial gifts (e.g., jewelry and money for the benefit of herself and her family) and other favors of value (e.g., use of an official vehicle and helping arrange for the dismissal of a shoplifting charge against her); he sent her letters, cards, notes, text messages, and even placed an ad in the local newspaper for her which included only the words “one day”; he engaged her in hours-long conversations behind closed doors during the workday about personal matters, including his feelings for her; and he kissed her, shared with her a story he wrote about two people spending a night together in a hotel room, and told her he wanted to make love to her. He did much of this after Complainant told him in writing on December 5,2017 to stop and that she wanted their relationship to be professional only.”
The complainant alleged that she was constantly in fear of losing her job and felt she had to go along with his behavior. Donovan would get upset and ignore her for days or weeks at time if she did not respond the way he wanted.
After the complaint was filed in April 2019, Donovan changed the structure of the DA’s office so that the complainant reported to someone other than him. He did demand in writing that the complainant drop her complaint and told Paulding County officials that her character “may be considered questionable at best,” the report says while also suggesting that Donovan’s behavior “may rise to the level of retaliation” because of his efforts to discredit the complainant to her subordinates.
Donovan’s Interviews & Testimony
The investigative report noted a number of ‘disparities’ with Donovan’s affidavit and statements. Specifically, Donovan’s statements made in audio recordings by the complainant, his own affidavit, and a June 27, 2019 letter to Paulding County officials were ‘significantly’ inconsistent.
“I will note, however, that Mr. Donovan’s initial position during our interview changed somewhat after I informed him that Complainant had recorded some of their conversations. Whereas he initially indicated his “love” for Complainant was friendly in nature and little different than what he feels for many others, including others in his office; after he learned about the recorded conversations, he was willing to acknowledge his feelings for Complainant were more serious,” the report reads.
In his affidavit in May 2019, Donovan stated, “But I am very, very reluctant to characterize it as sexual harassment because, again, I have never suggested we have sex, I have never offered to have sex with her, I have never said I wanted to have sex with her, I have never tried to have sex with her.”
But during a March 16, 2018 conversation with the complainant, which she recorded, Donovan said, “I am in perfectly good health. Everything still works. I don’t mind telling you everything still works, and I am not out of practice. I can’t think of any experience I would relish or cherish more than to make love to you…”
Additionally, Donovan initially denied a ‘32,000 word document’ which details fantasies and other ideas about the complainant which she said Donovan referenced a number of times during closed-door meetings in his office, but during his interview with the investigator, Donovan twice acknowledged the document.
Settlement of Lawsuit
The Paulding County government directly paid $5,000 and $6,150 in mediation costs, according to county officials. The state government is paying $220,000 and a risk fund managed by the Association County Commissioners of Georgia (ACCG) is paying $75,000, according to the MDJ. Paulding County government was also saddled with a $25,000 deductible to the ACCG Interlocal Risk Management Agency.