An ethics investigation, a charge of discrimination from the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and a financial dispute all center around former Honolulu City Councilwoman Kym Pine, alleging that she used city resources for her 2020 unsuccessful bid for mayor, disclosed personal medical history of a former employee and did not properly pay that same staffer.
The ethics investigation is centered around Pine’s use of city resources during her mayoral campaign. Council staffers were asked to send fundraising solicitations and messages to an email list cultivated during the course of official Council business that included contacts for county employees and other government workers who were not politically active, according to Daniela Stolfi, a former Pine staffer, and documents reviewed by the Honolulu Star-Advertiser.
Staffers repeatedly urged Pine to use an email list dedicated to the campaign, and notified Pine that they were uncomfortable with her orders, according to Stolfi and the documents. However, Pine persisted. Some lawmakers also asked Pine to cease sending campaign materials to their official emails, which is prohibited.
The ethics investigation into Pine’s campaign was originally based on a complaint filed over a year ago by Choon James, one of Pine’s opponents in the 2020 mayoral race.
Pine, the former councilmember from District 1, is also locked in a financial dispute with Stolfi, who was Pine’s City Council and campaign digital director. Stolfi managed Pine’s City Council and campaign websites, social media feeds, communications and various other duties. Stolfi filed a Small Claims Court case against Pine, alleging that Pine did not pay Stolfi for work done during the campaign. Stolfi is asking the court to make Pine pay her $5,000 for the work she did.
Additionally, the City and County of Honolulu is facing charges of employment discrimination by the Hawaii Civil Rights Commission and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission after Pine disclosed Stolfi’s mental health history to a Honolulu Star-Advertiser reporter when asked about the Small Claims Court proceeding.
The charge asserts that Pine told the reporter that Stolfi might hurt herself if a story were published on the financial dispute. It also alleges that Pine sent disparaging text messages about Stolfi’s mental health, prescribed medication use and her ability to work with others.
For a charge of discrimination to be filed by both the EEOC and the Hawaii Civil Rights Commission, a preliminary interview must be completed. After a complaint is filed, the employer has the opportunity to respond and then there is a formal investigation. If the investigator determines unlawful discrimination has occurred, the commissions would attempt to settle the case where the offending party could have to pay damages. Cases can also go to a hearing, although it is rare.
Stolfi alleged that Pine created a hostile work environment by playing employees off against one another, according to documents from the investigation obtained by the Star-Advertiser.
Stolfi worked for Pine since 2013, and they had a close relationship that severely deteriorated during the pandemic, Stolfi said.
“I feel like it (the pandemic) allowed a lot of people to exploit employees, and that’s what we went through,” Stolfi said.
“She knew we could lose our jobs. She knew that we were afraid to be unemployed. And so she was able to push us to the maximum and make us do things, and try to get us to do things that we didn’t want to, and we can’t really do anything about it.”
Pine said she was not aware of the complaints.
“I hope that these people get the help that they need,” Pine said.
“And I forgive them.”