Honolulu City Council Chairman Ernie Martin said he will conduct an internal investigation into whether one Council member harassed another’s staff aide.
Councilman Ikaika Anderson alleged Councilman Trevor Ozawa harassed his staff aide for sign-waving in support of one of Ozawa’s opponents in the Aug. 11 primary election.
“Following the city’s Respectful Workplace Policy, I will be conducting an internal investigation,” Martin said in an email.
He declined to provide specifics, saying, “As with all internal personnel matters, I am unable to provide any further comments until our investigation is complete and reviewed,” he said.
However, in a memo he sent to Anderson and other Council members, he offered more details: “A small team will be named to conduct interviews of the victim, accuser and witnesses, if any. The team will submit to me its findings and recommendations, if any, at the conclusion of the investigation.”
In his complaint, Anderson said his aide, who was not named, was questioned by Ozawa about sign-waving on behalf of former state Rep. Tommy Waters, one of the three candidates challenging Ozawa’s re-election bid. Four years ago Ozawa beat Waters by 41 votes in the second special election for the Council District 4 seat, after finishing second to Waters by nearly 4,400 votes in the first special election.
“The harassment included Councilmember Ozawa’s demanding that my staff member cease campaign activities for Councilmember Ozawa’s opponent,” Anderson wrote.
Anderson said the alleged harassment happened several times during regular work hours in the Council’s office, and he pointed out that his staffer had broken no rules by campaigning for a candidate of her choice on her own time.
His staffer was reluctant to report the incidents and told him to forget about them, Anderson said. He said he did initially let the matter go, until it happened a third time and involved Ozawa blocking the exit of the staffer’s small cubicle area. “My staff member felt uncomfortable and intimidated due to these repeat incidences which clearly demonstrate a pattern of workplace aggressiveness and bullying by Councilmember Ozawa,” Anderson said in his letter.
Ozawa told the Honolulu Star-Advertiser he welcomed the investigation. “I’m confident that the allegations contained will be investigated and thoroughly vetted soon so we can move on from this red herring and focus on doing the work of the city,” he said in a text.
He called the accusations “false, baseless and mischaracterized.”
In an email to the Honolulu Star-Advertiser, he accused Anderson of “political gamesmanship.”
Anderson said if he was engaging in political gamesmanship, he would’ve filed a complaint after the first incident of alleged harassment.
He said he and Waters had been friends since 2002, when Anderson lost to Waters for a seat in the state House of Representatives, and that he backed Waters for the Council seat against Ozawa in 2014.
Anderson and Ozawa have been at odds before. In July 2016 Martin removed Anderson as chairman of the Council Zoning and Planning Committee and replaced him with Ozawa weeks after a fractious committee meeting. Anderson had told Ozawa, “Brief, please,” when he wanted to ask another question of someone testifying after a testy exchange. Anderson’s comment spurred Ozawa to walk out of the committee room, leaving the meeting without a quorum to conduct votes.
Last month Ozawa filed a complaint with the city Ethics Commission against Misty Kela‘i, who heads Mayor Kirk Caldwell’s Mayor’s Office of Culture and the Arts, for using MOCA’s Instagram to voice support for Waters. Kela‘i apologized to Ozawa and had the posts and comments removed.