Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Breaking -- Hawaii House Speaker Emeritus Joe Souki ousted over sexual harassment claims. Full text of Ethics Commission settlement, plus media articles as Hawaii enters #metoo era

courtesy photo
Former House Speaker Joe Souki, courtesy photo
 Resolution of Investigation

The Commission believes that, based on the facts admitted above, Respondent
Souki likely violated the Fair Treatment Law (HRS § 84-13).

Based on the circumstances in this case, the Commission believes that it is
reasonable, fair, and in the public interest to resolve this investigation as follows:
  • (1) Issuing this Resolution of Investigation;
  • (2) Requiring Respondent Souki to resign his position as a member of the House of Representatives, effective no later than March 30, 2018;
  • (3) Requiring Respondent Souki to issue a public apology for his conduct;
  • (4) Requiring Respondent Souki to pay an administrative penalty of $5,000 to the State of Hawaii; and
  • (5) Requiring Respondent Souki to agree not to seek or accept any public office for a period of two years
News coverage of the settlement:

Former House Speaker Joseph Souki will be required by the Hawaii State Ethics Commission to resign from office next week to resolve a complaint involving accusations from multiple women who allege they were the targets of his unwanted advances that included sexual comments, touching and kissing, according to people familiar with the agreement. Star-Advertiser.

Former Hawaii House Speaker Forced Out Over Sexual Harassment. Several women had filed ethics complaints against Joe Souki, a longtime lawmaker from Maui. Civil Beat.

Veteran Maui lawmaker and former Speaker Joe Souki will resign from the state Legislature later this month, following a state Ethics Commission settlement of a sexual harassment complaint against him. Maui News.

Long-time lawmaker and former house speaker Joe Souki of Maui will resign from his legislative post amid a state Ethics Commission settlement over allegations of sexual harassment. Maui Now.

House Harassment Policy Puts Speaker In Charge Of All Complaints. The internal process for resolving sexual harassment complaints in the House doesn’t anticipate what happens if the speaker is the one being accused. Civil Beat.

Souki accuser is moved by other women’s stories of harassment at state Capitol. Star-Advertiser.

Full text of Settlement Agreement:

Read full text of Souki settlement here.

Resolution of Investigation
2018-2
(COMPL-I-17-00397)
Hawaii House of Representatives, Speaker Emeritus Joseph M. Souki,
Alleged Violations of Fair Treatment Law
March 16, 2018

The Hawaii State Ethics Commission (“Commission”) has resolved an
Investigation of Speaker Emeritus Joseph M. Souki (“Respondent Souki”), for alleged
violations of the State Ethics Code, Hawaii Revised Statutes (“HRS”) chapter 84. The
investigation involved allegations that Respondent Souki sexually harassed multiple
women by subjecting them to unwanted kissing, touching, and sexual language.
The alleged violations came to the attention of the Commission by way of a
complaint from Rachael Wong, former Director of the Department of Human Services.
Upon investigation, the Commission staff received allegations of similar unwanted and
inappropriate conduct by Respondent Souki from several other women.

I. Facts
Respondent Souki admitted the following facts:
a. Respondent Souki, at all times relevant herein, was an elected member of
Hawaii’s House of Representatives. He was first elected to office in 1982 and
has served continuously since that time. He served as Speaker of the House
from 1993 to 1999 and again from 2013 to 2017.
b. The House of Representatives is a “state agency” as defined by HRS § 84-3.
Respondent Souki, at all times relevant herein, was a state legislator and was
therefore required to comply with the State Ethics Code.
c. The House of Representatives’ internal rules prohibit sexual harassment:
It is the policy of the House to provide a work environment
free from violence, threats of violence, harassment, intimidation, and other disruptive behavior. House membersand staff shall be treated with dignity and respect at all
times.

Rules of the House of Representatives, Twenty-Ninth State Legislature, 2017-2018
(hereinafter, “House Rules”), Preface, available here.

d. The House of Representatives’ Standards of Conduct contain clear
proscriptions on members’ conduct, including the following:
60.1. Members should conduct themselves in a respectful
manner befitting the office with which they as elected
officials have been entrusted, respecting and
complying with the law and acting at all times in a
manner that promotes public confidence in the
integrity of the House.
. . .
60.3. Members should treat their fellow House members,
staff, and the general public with respect and
courtesy, regardless of political or religious beliefs,
age, race, ethnicity, sex, sexual orientation, gender
identity or expression, or physical disability.
60.4. . . . Members should freely and willingly accept
certain restrictions on their business activities and
professional conduct that might be considered
burdensome by an ordinary private citizen, and
should perform the duties of elected office impartially
and diligently. To the greatest extent reasonably
possible, members should:

(2) Refrain from showing bias or prejudice, including
but not limited to bias or prejudice based on
political or religious beliefs, age, race, ethnicity,
sex, sexual orientation, gender identity or
expression, or physical disability, in the
performance of their official duties;
(3) Exercise patience, tolerance, and courtesy to all
those with whom they deal with in an official
capacity, and require staff and others subject to their direction and control to maintain similar
standards of conduct, fidelity, and diligence
inherent in public service;
. . .
(8) Refrain from using, or permitting the use of, the
privileges and prestige of their public office to
derive undue personal, professional, or financial
benefits for themselves, members of their family,
or others with whom they maintain personal,
business, or professional relationships;

House Rules at 49-50.
e. The Speaker of the House is the presiding officer of the House of
Representatives, and as such, exercises substantial control over the
operations of the House:
The presiding officers of each house conduct floor sessions
in their respective chambers and exercise control over their
house's operations, facilities, and property, including by
appointing conference committee members and scheduling
the legislative timetable in cooperation with the other house.
In addition, the presiding officers represent their respective
houses in dealing with the public and other agencies.
Hawaii State Legislature, “Membership, Leadership and Standing Committees,”
available at https://www.capitol.hawaii.gov/docs/cg/5.pdf. Similarly, the House of
Representatives’ internal rules contain three full pages devoted to the Speaker’s duties,
including appointing committee chairs and referring bills to committees.

House Rules at 3-5.
f. The Speaker of the House also has significant control over the process for
investigating complaints against Representatives – including the Speaker –
by choosing the members of any panel that would investigate a complaint of
misconduct: “[T]he Speaker shall appoint a special committee to receive
complaints and investigate any member for misconduct, disorderly conduct,
neglect of duty, violation of chapter 84, Hawaii Revised Statutes, or violation
of these Rules.” House Rules, Rule 28.3.
g. Respondent Souki admits that, while serving as Speaker of the House and in
meetings held in his State Capitol office, he touched and kissed more than
one woman in ways that were inappropriate and unwelcome. He admits that
this physical contact exceeded the boundaries of the customary “aloha kiss.”
h. Respondent Souki further admits that he made sexual comments, including
comments on the physical appearance of more than one woman, that were
inappropriate and unwanted.

II. The State Ethics Code, HRS Chapter 84
A. Constitutional Mandate and Statutory Purpose
The State Ethics Code arises from the declaration contained in the State
Constitution that “[t]he people of Hawaii believe that public officers and employees must
exhibit the highest standards of ethical conduct and that these standards come from the
personal integrity of each individual in government.”2 To this end, the Hawaii
Constitution further directs that the legislature enact a code of ethics that applies to all
appointed and elected state officers and employees.
In accordance with this constitutional mandate, the legislature enacted the State
Ethics Code and charged the Commission with administering and enforcing the law “so
that public confidence in public servants will be preserved.”3 Additionally, the legislature
explicitly directed that the State Ethics Code be liberally construed to promote high
standards of ethical conduct in state government. HRS § 84-1. It is in this context that
the Commission examines every employee’s actions.

B. The State Ethics Code
As a legislator, Respondent Souki was required to comply with the State Ethics
Code. As a legislator, and particularly as Speaker of the House, it is incumbent upon
Respondent Souki to set – and exhibit – high standards of ethical conduct.
HRS § 84-13 (the “Fair Treatment Law”) provides in relevant part:
No legislator or employee shall use or attempt to use the
legislator's or employee's official position to secure or grant unwarranted privileges, exemptions, advantages, contracts,
or treatment, for oneself or others
In other words, a legislator may not use his state position to obtain unwarranted benefits
for himself, nor may he use his state position to subject another person to unwarranted
treatment – favorable or unfavorable.
The Commission investigated Respondent Souki’s actions, and as set forth
above, Respondent Souki admits to inappropriate and unwanted sexual comments,
kissing, and touching.

Because of his power as Speaker over legislation and budgeting questions,
women were reticent to confront Respondent Souki or to file a complaint with the House
of Representatives regarding his conduct. For example, then-Director Wong was
responsible for a state department with a budget of $3.3 billion, consisting of “four
divisions, two attached agencies, two attached commissions, and six staff offices.”
Department of Human Services, Annual Report 2016, at 2, available at
https://humanservices.hawaii.gov/wp-content/uploads/2017/ 01/DHS-2016-Annual-
Report.pdf. Challenging then-Speaker Souki’s conduct could have jeopardized her
agency’s budget and legislation, thereby impairing her advocacy efforts on behalf of
Hawaii’s children and families. She, like others, felt she had no choice but to remain
silent in the face of Respondent Souki’s behavior. The Ethics Code was designed to
prevent such abuses of power by state government officials.

III. Resolution of Investigation

The Commission believes that, based on the facts admitted above, Respondent
Souki likely violated the Fair Treatment Law (HRS § 84-13).
Based on the circumstances in this case, the Commission believes that it is
reasonable, fair, and in the public interest to resolve this investigation as follows:
(1) Issuing this Resolution of Investigation;
(2) Requiring Respondent Souki to resign his position as a member of the House
of Representatives, effective no later than March 30, 2018;
(3) Requiring Respondent Souki to issue a public apology for his conduct;
(4) Requiring Respondent Souki to pay an administrative penalty of $5,000 to the
State of Hawaii; and
(5) Requiring Respondent Souki to agree not to seek or accept any public office
for a period of two years

As previously stated, the Commission believes it is fair, reasonable, and in the
public interest to resolve this matter without further administrative action.
Dated March 16, 2018 ________________________________
Reynaldo D. Graulty, Chair
Hawaii State Ethics Commission
Dated March 16, 2018 ________________________________
Ruth Tschumy, Vice Chair
Hawaii State Ethics Commission
Dated March 16, 2018 ________________________________
Susan N. DeGuzman, Commissioner
Hawaii State Ethics Commission
Dated March 16, 2018 ________________________________
David O’Neal, Commissioner
Hawaii State Ethics Commission
Dated March 16, 2018 ________________________________
Melinda Wood, Commissioner
Hawaii State Ethics Commission

=====

Prior stories about Souki harassment allegations:

Rep. Joe Souki is accused of sexual harassment. Posted: Feb 01, 2018 6:40 PM HST KITV.

Former state Department of Human Services Director Rachael Wong has filed a sexual harassment complaint against former House Speaker Joe Souki — a political icon from Maui who for decades has been one of the most powerful lawmakers in the state. Updated February 1, 2018 2:19pm. Star-Advertiser.

Longtime Wailuku state representative and two-time House Speaker Joe Souki is facing a sexual harassment complaint from the former head of Hawaii’s Department of Human Services. Feb 2, 2018. Maui News.