Former House Speaker Joseph Souki said the accusations of sexual harassment against him are all three to eight years old, and he has “absolutely no memory of ever acting in inappropriately with any woman at any time, as a member of the House or in a private setting.”
Souki has agreed to resign from office next week to resolve complaints from “several” women who allege they were the targets of his unwanted advances that included sexual comments, touching and kissing, according to the Hawaii State Ethics Commission.
Souki, a two-time speaker of the House who has been a powerful figure in Hawaii politics for decades, was first accused of inappropriate conduct by former Director of Human Services Rachael Wong, who filed allegations against him with the ethics commission last fall.
After the Star-Advertiser reported on that complaint, at least four other women came forward with similar allegations against Souki, Wong said in an interview.
Souki, who was flanked by his lawyer Michael Green at a brief press conference today, said he felt sorry for Wong after she told him she would be retiring and leaving state government.
“I felt sorry for her and I went and kissed her cheek, and that’s all. I stood up and I kissed her cheek. At that time, she did not say anything opposing to that, but I initiated it, she didn’t put her face forward,” he said. He added: “I didn’t do anything else other than that.”
To fight the allegations against him, “it will take very long, it will be very expensive, it would hurt a lot of people in the process. It has never been my intent as a legislator to hurt anybody. It would hurt both the accuser and my family and my friends as we’re going through all of this, as you well know,” Souki said.
According to a document made public by ethics commission staff today, Souki admitted that while serving as speaker of the House he “touched and kissed more than one woman in ways that were inappropriate and unwelcome” during meetings in his office.
“He admits that this physical contact exceeded the boundaries of the customary ‘aloha kiss,’ ” according to the Resolution of Investigation document released by the ethics commission. “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.”
When asked if he is concerned that people will assume he is guilty because he is resigning, Souki replied that “there will be some that will. I cannot control that.”