A group of advocates and residents have demanded Prince George’s County Executive Rushern L. Baker III fire senior adviser Calvin Hawkins after charges against him for sexual assault and harassment from nearly 10 years ago recently resurfaced.
The advocates also request the county’s state’s attorney office conduct an independent investigation to determine when Baker knew about Hawkins’ case — which ultimately cost the county $150,000 — and whether his administration has done enough to protect women in the workplace.
“The residents of Prince George’s County deserve to be represented by public officials who stand against any act of harassment or aggression towards women,” Virginia Kase, chief operations officer with CASA de Maryland, said in a statement. “If a settlement of any kind was paid to a victim by the county on behalf of an accused and that individual was still able to serve under the highest levels of leadership … it is not only a profound violation of public trust, but a miscarriage of justice.”
Danielle Carter of Mt. Rainier, who experienced workplace sexual harassment in 1992 in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, said she has “zero tolerance for men who do these things.”
“How is [Hawkins] still working for the county government?” Carter told The Informer on Tuesday. “[Baker] needs to fire him. Rushern Baker should drop out the race, too.”
Brittany Oliver, who does organizing work with Progressive Maryland, said it doesn’t matter how long ago the harassment occurred.
“Think about the time that it took for the woman to come out, or the trauma that you deal with after that experience,” said Oliver of Baltimore, who founded a social and political movement called Not Without Black Women. “The trauma doesn’t go away.”
According to court records, Hawkins was charged in June 2008 with assault, a sex offense and false imprisonment.
County employee Tonya Y. Hairston took the county to court and a jury in December 2009 forced the county to pay $12,500, according to court documents.
The jury determined the county “knew, or should have known of Hawkins’ harassment; failed to take prompt and adequate action and failed to exercise reasonable care to prevent, and correct promptly, any sexually harassing behavior in the workplace.”
Hairston sought $1 million, according to court records.
The documents show in November 2012, a judge awarded Hairston nearly $135,000.
Hairston couldn’t be reached for comment Tuesday afternoon.
The county fired Hawkins, but reinstated him in 2010 with back pay after he appealed to the county’s personnel review board.
Hawkins, 56, a graduate of Oxon Hill High School, attended Bowie State University and has worked in the county for more than two decades, including for the Department of Public Works, as an aide for late County Executive Wayne K. Curry and with the Community Emergency Response Team (CERT).
Hawkins, one of five Democrats to seek two at-large county council seats in the June primary, released a statement Tuesday.
“After a thorough investigation, the allegations of harassment were disproven. After an adjudication process conducted by the Prince George’s County government, including the personnel board, I was reinstated to my position,” he said. “Notwithstanding, I have taken full responsibility for my poor judgement and any pain I caused others.
“Over the last decade, I have worked hard to repair my reputation among my colleagues and have committed myself to faithfully serving the citizens of Prince George’s County,” he said.
Aside from his family, Hawkins has another important ally: Baker.
Baker, who officially filed his candidacy for governor Tuesday at the Maryland Board of Elections in Annapolis, declined to comment about the advocates’ requests to have Hawkins step down because it’s a personnel issue.
Baker, whose term expires later this year, did compliment Hawkins’ work with the county during his time in office.
“He’s done a great job in every job he has been given,” Baker said Tuesday while standing beside his running mate, Elizabeth Embry. “He recruited a lot of good people [at CERT]. I don’t think we’ve ever [received] a complaint about his work or his performance since I’ve been county executive.”
Baker outlined how he instituted ethics reform in the county and all employees continue anti-harassment training as part of the national #MeToo movement to “emphasize what is not accepted and what would not be tolerated.”