House Speaker Joe Souki has publicly reprimanded Rep. Faye Hanohano for her “intimidating” conduct after substantiating complaints that she made racially charged remarks to a college student and state employees.
Souki sent her a letter Thursday threatening to remove her from all five of her committee assignments if she fails to behave properly and let her know that House leadership will be watching her closely until the legislative session ends in May.
It was a delicate decision, both culturally and politically. Critics have demanded Hanohano’s resignation, while other people sympathize with what they see as her strong perspective as a Native Hawaiian.
Souki launched the investigation after Hawaii Pacific University student Aarin Jacobs told media outlets that Hanohano made disparaging comments about his age and ethnicity during a Feb. 7 public hearing.
A few days later, state Board of Land and Natural Resources Chair William Aila sent Souki a letter saying DLNR staff have “no level of confidence” testifying before the representative because she treats them so rudely.
A majority of House leaders wanted to strip Hanohano of her chairmanship of the Ocean, Marine Resources and Hawaiian Affairs Committee, Souki told reporters at a press conference Thursday afternoon. But after further discussion, he decided to give her another chance to redeem herself.
Hanohano has not apologized for her actions, Souki said, but her behavior has shown marked improvement in the last week. He considers that a tacit apology.
She faced similar accusations last year when she objected to the State Foundation for Culture and the Arts lack of Native Hawaiian art for her to display in her Capitol office. That incident resulted in Hanohano offering a formal apology.
Hanohano declined to comment Thursday on the public reprimand.
Souki said he met with Hanohano and she has assured him that in the future she will conduct herself “fairly, without rancor, and with respect and courtesy to both the public and to state agencies and employees.”