The leadership of the state House of Representatives will await the outcome of an investigation into a sexual harassment complaint against state Rep. Joseph Souki before deciding whether to take any action against the 84-year-old lawmaker, according to House Speaker Scott Saiki.
“The House of Representatives takes matters of workplace harassment very seriously,” Saiki said in a statement released this afternoon. “It is my understanding that the Ethics Commission is currently investigating this matter. We will await the Ethics Commission’s findings and recommendations before deciding any course of action.”
Former state Department of Human Services Director Rachael Wong filed a sexual harassment complaint last year against Souki, who is a former House speaker and has long been a powerful figure in Hawaii politics.
Wong has declined to discuss specifics because the details of her complaint are currently under investigation by the Hawaii State Ethics Commission.
However, she said that after the incident, “I was unable to do my job. There were constraints after that experience where I could no longer do my job, which means paying visits to, speaking with, the key people involved in government.”
As director of the Department of Human Services in 2015 and 2016, Wong oversaw a state department with more than 2,000 employees and an annual budget of nearly $3 billion. State department heads are often required to meet with state lawmakers to advocate for administration initiatives or for funding.
Souki’s lawyer Michael Green has described the complaint as “crazy,” and said the incident occurred three years ago.
“She went to shake his hand, and he kissed her goodbye,” Green said on Wednesday. “What she said was, they spoke, and he made some comment about being ‘perky,’ and I don’t know what that means, and it was three years ago, but when she went to shake his hand goodbye, I think he kissed her on the cheek.”
Green added that “I don’t see anything he did that she’s complaining about that would make me think it’s sexual harassment.”