Grand jury indicts Paulding County district attorney Donovan

Sexual harassment allegations lead to bribery charge, other felony counts
Dick Donovan has served as the district attorney of the Paulding County Judicial Circuit since 2011.

Dick Donovan has served as the district attorney of the Paulding County Judicial Circuit since 2011.

Paulding County District Attorney Donald Richard “Dick” Donovan was indicted Wednesday on four felony charges, including bribery, false swearing and two counts of violation of oath by public officer, state Attorney General Chris Carr said.

Donovan, first elected Paulding district attorney in 2010 and re-elected in 2014 and 2018, became the subject of a GBI investigation in 2019 after one of his senior staff members said Donovan sexually harassed her. Prosecutors from Carr’s office presented the case Wednesday to the grand jury.

“We appreciate the Paulding County Grand Jury for their careful consideration of this case,” Carr said in an emailed statement. “District attorneys work for the people and swear an oath to faithfully and impartially discharge their duties. It is our duty to hold public officials who violate their oath accountable, and we look forward to presenting our case in court.”

According to the indictment, Donovan bribed a prosecutor in a neighboring county to drop criminal charges against one of his employees. The indictment also alleges 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.

Jamie White, Paulding County’s victim-witness coordinator, said in a complaint filed on April 26, 2019, that Donovan repeatedly bought her gifts, kissed her, told her he loved her and said he wanted to have sex. The behavior began in October 2017 and continued even after she asked him to stop, the complaint said.

Donovan denied any wrongdoing. But weeks after White filed her complaint, Donovan gave a sworn statement speaking for just over two hours to a court reporter, who typed the affidavit.

“If it’s sexual harassment, it’s unlawful,” Donovan said in the affidavit. “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. I have never touched her anywhere that was inappropriate.”

But White recorded some conversations with Donovan and those audio tapes tell a different story, according to attorney Michael James Walker, who investigated the allegations. Walker provided the county with a 180-page report detailing his findings.

That June, White filed a Charge of Discrimination complaint with the Georgia Commission on Equal Opportunity, stating that Donovan repeatedly told her he was in love with her and forced her to sit in lengthy private meetings with him. In October 2019, White filed a federal lawsuit alleging Donovan sexually harassed her and then retaliated when she reported it.

The federal filing came after White herself was arrested in Polk County on a shoplifting charge, according to Donovan’s affadavit. White called Donovan to tell him about the arrest and then called Polk County DA Jack Browning to ask that she be given a signature bond, Donovan said in the affadavit.

The charge against White was later dropped. Browning was not involved in any wrongdoing related to the case, according to prosecutors. The bribery charge, according to Donovan’s indictments, involved municipal court employees.

In January 2020, a $300,000 settlement was reached, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution previously reported. Records show state and Paulding taxpayers were responsible for the majority of the settlement.

The state of Georgia paid $220,000 of the $300,000 settlement, according to the agreement. Paulding County’s liability insurance policy chipped in $75,000, with the county paying a $25,000 deductible. Paulding paid the $5,000 balance in the settlement, which the county’s board of commissioners approved unanimously.

The Attorney General’s office will send a copy of the indictment to Gov. Brian Kemp, a spokeswoman said. Donovan’s salary was $128,000 in 2020, state records show.

Wednesday afternoon, state Sen. Jason Anavitarte, a freshman Republican from Dallas, called on Donovan to step down.

“Dick should resign,” Anavitarte posted on Twitter.

About the Author