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

Lawsuit: Paulding DA sexually harassed top staffer

A senior staff member has filed a federal lawsuit alleging Paulding County District Attorney Dick Donovan sexually harassed her and then retaliated when she reported it. 

Jamie White, Paulding County’s victim-witness coordinator, says in the lawsuit that Donovan repeatedly bought her gifts, kissed her, told her he loved her and said he wanted to have sex. And even though she made a formal complaint to the county in April, White says the allegations have not been addressed.

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“Since Plaintiff made her formal complaint, DA Donovan has refused to speak to Plaintiff and used other managers in the office to circumvent her authority and supervisory responsibilities,” the lawsuit states. “The retaliation has added to an already extremely hostile work environment.”

Because Donovan is an elected constitutional officer, he cannot be fired. Elected in 2010 and re-elected in 2014 and 2018, he does not face re-election until 2022. Donovan’s salary was $126,000 in 2018, state records showed. 

In 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. Donovan’s behavior toward her, White said, caused her “anxiety, shame and emotional distress.”

White’s complaints were among several documents obtained by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and Channel 2 Action News through Georgia’s Open Records Act as part of a joint investigation.

Donovan has denied wrongdoing. 

“If it’s sexual harassment, it’s unlawful,” Donovan said in an 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 an outside attorney brought in to investigate the allegations determined the 73-year-old prosecutor violated Paulding County’s sexual harassment policy. That independent investigation cost the county nearly $18,000, records showed. 

The GBI is currently investigating Donovan, the agency has said. Details of that investigation have not been released. 

According to the federal lawsuit, Donovan committed civil battery and false imprisonment by touching White and making unwanted sexual advances. He also physically blocked her from leaving his office, conference room and car, the suit alleges 

In addition to Donovan, the Paulding government and Prosecuting Attorneys’ Council of Georgia are named in the lawsuit, which seeks unspecified damages and a jury trial. 

Neither Donovan nor his attorney responded to a request from Channel 2 for a comment Friday. Frank Baker, Paulding’s county administrator, also declined to comment. 

White’s attorney released a statement Friday afternoon on her behalf. 

“Although DA Donovan often reminded Ms. White that he was the most powerful man in Paulding County, no one is above the law,” Tracey Barbaree said.  “Ms. White’s claims are filed in good faith, and we look forward to a jury deciding the facts.”

Paulding County District Attorney Dick Donovan's state-appointed lawyer told Diamant they both intend to vigorously defend the allegations.

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