A Prince George’s County Council candidate who is a senior adviser to County Executive Rushern L. Baker III was accused of sexually harassing a colleague a decade ago while working in a different county government office.
The allegations led to a nearly $150,000 civil judgment against Prince George’s after a jury found that the government knew or should have known about the harassment and a judge ruled that the county must pay attorney’s fees for the victim, Tonya Hairston.
Hairston says Calvin Hawkins, who is running for one of two new at-large council seats, restrained and forcibly kissed her in 2008, when they were employees in the county’s office of emergency management. Hawkins, 56, said he disputes some of the specifics of Hairston’s account but recognizes that his behavior was inappropriate.
“I don’t make any excuses,” said Hawkins, who has emerged as an early fundraising leader in the at-large race, thanks in part to donations from Baker’s relatives, members of his administration, and current and former council members. “I learned from it . . . I’m more humble,” Hawkins said. “I’m a better person, very sensitive to women.”
Baker, who is term-limited and running for governor in the June 26 Democratic primary, has not endorsed Hawkins in the at-large race or given him money. He said Hawkins has done a “phenomenal job” as his aide, but also said that as county executive, he has “made sure that sexual harassment in any form would not be tolerated.”
County employees recently completed additional anti-harassment training triggered by the ongoing national attention to sexual assault that is part of the #MeToo movement, Baker said.
Hairston said Hawkins, one of five at-large candidates in the Democratic primary, has never apologized to her and, in her opinion, is not fit for elected office. “If he wins, the county is giving a predator like him the power to do this to someone else,” she said.
Two of Hawkins’s opponents have also had legal troubles in recent years.
Incumbent council member Mel Franklin (D-District 9), who is term-limited in his district seat, pleaded guilty last year to driving under the influence in a crash that wrecked a government vehicle and injured two people. Franklin totaled another government vehicle in a distracted-driving crash in 2012.
Council member Karen R. Toles (D-District 7), who is also term-limited in her district, was pulled over in 2012 for driving her county-issued car 105 mph on the Capital Beltway. She received 46 tickets in her county car from 2011 to 2016, according to a Washington Post investigation.
The other candidates are former state delegate Gerron S. Levi, a Democrat who ran against Baker for county executive in 2010, and Jonathan White, who entered the race this month.
The at-large seats were created by a 2016 ballot measure and are intended to broaden the focus of the council and improve institutional memory by making it possible for some lawmakers to serve two terms in a district seat and then two terms at large.
Levi, a federal lobbyist, said she expects the sexual harassment allegations against Hawkins and Franklin’s DUI to be discussed on the campaign trail.
“Good people elected to powerful positions and confronted with the illegal, unethical, sexual and immoral temptations put before them constantly have succumbed to them,” Levi said. “Should we elect a person that has already demonstrated a likelihood to yield to those type of temptations?”
Franklin said his DUI conviction is “in the past, and it doesn’t define my long career, but it’s something I want to be open and honest with folks about.” Asked about the allegations against Hawkins, he said sexual harassment “is a very serious issue” that “has no place in any workplace, including in Prince George’s County.”
Toles did not respond to repeated requests for comment.
Hairston, who still works for the county, alleged two specific instances of harassment in 2008.
Hawkins approached her from behind in the office kitchen, said “Miss T., just once,” and grabbed her bottom, according to Hairston’s account in court records.
On a second occasion, Hairston alleged, Hawkins grabbed her hands, pulled her onto his lap in a chair, forcibly kissed her on her neck and rubbed himself against her. She said the door to the office they were in was locked, and he stopped the attack only when he saw another employee coming.
Hawkins was fired, then reinstated with back pay in 2010 after appealing to the county’s personnel review board. The board found that Hawkins touched Hairston in “an unwanted manner,” according to a copy of the report obtained by The Washington Post, but said there was insufficient proof that the unwanted touching happened more than once or constituted sexual harassment.
The report cites Hawkins’s “outstanding record for conduct and performance” and says he had “been in contact with hundreds of women, some of which testified that they never saw a sign” of the alleged misconduct.
In 2009, a jury ordered the county to pay Hairston $12,500 in damages — a small fraction of the $1 million she sought. Three years later, a judge awarded her $135,145 in legal fees and expenses.
Hawkins was born in the District and grew up in Prince George’s. A graduate of Oxon Hill High School, he studied at Bowie State University but was arrested for armed robbery and convicted at 21. During his five-year prison sentence, he said, he pledged to make a positive contribution to his community after his release.
He has worked for the county for 23 years, starting out in the Department of Public Works. He was an aide and liaison for then-County Executive Wayne K. Curry (D) before becoming a division manager in the office of emergency management.
Baker said he knew Hawkins from his work with Curry and offered him the job of council liaison and senior adviser beginning in November 2013.
Hawkins said he was in counseling for about a year following the allegations by Hairston and has not been in contact with her in recent years. He said he has learned “tough lessons” from being accused, in part through conversations with the “very strong women” in his life, including his wife and daughter.
Scott Peterson, a spokesman for Baker, said the county executive was unaware of the allegations against Hawkins until they “resurfaced recently through the current political campaign.”
Hawkins is a familiar figure in the halls of the county government building and for years has accompanied Baker to community events.
Baker administration officials who have given to Hawkins’s campaign include his chief of staff, Glenda Wilson ($2,750); Peter A. Shapiro, executive director of the county’s revenue authority ($250); and Nicholas A. Majett, the county’s chief administrative officer ($250).
Baker’s adult son, Rush Baker, donated $200 to Hawkins. His wife, Christa Beverly, who suffers from early onset Alzheimer’s disease, donated $3,000, according to campaign finance reports.
“During his off time, Mr. Hawkins spent a lot of time helping out the family and Ms. Beverly with her Alzheimer’s. That donation is a reflection of that kindness and commitment to their family,” Baker campaign spokeswoman Madeleine Russak wrote in an email.
Hawkins also received donations from council member Mary A. Lehman (D-Laurel), the campaign committee of council member Andrea C. Harrison (D-Springdale), who is running for state delegate, and former council member Jim Estepp.