Board seat safe for now

Published 10:04 pm Wednesday, November 4, 2009

By By Kerry Whipple Bean
Escambia County School Board member Richard Hawthorne can remain in office despite criminal charges alleging he inappropriately touched female inmates.
Hawthorne, who resigned his position as an Escambia County Sheriff’s Department transportation officer, was arrested Friday on a grand jury indictment on charges of two counts of custodial sexual misconduct; two counts of ethics violation; two counts of prostitution and one count of promoting prison contraband, second degree.
Hawthorne has served on the board of education since 2001, representing the Flomaton area. Under state law, an elected office can be vacated when the office holder has been convicted of a felony.
For example, Birmingham Mayor Larry Langford was removed from office last week upon his conviction on charges of accepting bribes.
Hawthorne did not attend last week’s school board meeting.
In the event of any resignation from the board, state law provides that the remaining school board members appoint a replacement from that person’s district within 30 days. If no replacement is chosen, the state superintendent would choose someone to serve the remainder of the term until a regular election cycle.
Escambia County Sheriff Grover Smith said the Alabama Bureau of Investigation looking at allegations that Hawthorne had acted inappropriately with female inmates after the women made accusations. Smith said he asked the ABI to step in to avoid a conflict of interest with his own department.
According to reports, one incident occurred in March when a female inmate was being transported to a state facility, and another occurred in April when a female inmate was being taken to a state mental health facility.
Hawthorne posted $100,000 bail after his arrest Friday and was released.

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