A longtime Honolulu acupuncturist, a primary architect of the state’s regulation of his profession, has agreed to stop practicing to settle a complaint by a patient who accused him of touching her genitals.

The settlement between Mike Hashimoto and the Regulated Industries Complaints Office, was approved earlier this month by the Hawaii Board of Acupuncture. Hashimoto served on that board for 21 years, with his last term ending in 2018.

The settlement allows Hashimoto to retain his license only for the purposes of providing clinical instruction to acupuncture students. It requires him to shut down his business, just off of Kapahulu Avenue, by June 4 and no longer treat patients.

The settlement avoided a full hearing before Hashimoto’s former board to settle the question of whether he engaged in gross carelessness and unprofessional conduct.

The disciplinary action was the first one against a Hawaii acupuncturist since 2010. More than 700 acupuncturists are licensed in Hawaii, by far the highest concentration in the United States.

Acupuncturist Mike Hashimoto agreed to stop seeing patients as part of a settlement with the board that regulates his profession. John Hill/Civil Beat/2019

In the agreement, Hashimoto did not admit to violating any laws or rules, but acknowledged that RICO had sufficient cause to seek a disciplinary action.

In 2016, patient Janet Moya accused Hashimoto of stroking her groin, touching her vagina and performing what he called “clitoral engorgement” with a vibrating tool.

He denied the accusations. Prosecutors declined to file charges.

But RICO continued to look into the case, eventually taking almost three years to reach a resolution. Moya, a Shiatsu massage therapist, told Civil Beat earlier this year that she was frustrated the process took so long.

She questioned whether Hashimoto was getting preferential treatment because of his long tenure on the board.

RICO officials told Civil Beat that they generally wait for the conclusion of any criminal proceedings against a licensee before taking their own action. Prosecutors may not want the licensing authority involved until the case is resolved, and licensees’ attorneys may tell them not to cooperate with RICO because of the pending criminal action.

Forty-five years ago, Hashimoto pushed for the regulation of a profession in which, he said, practitioners served mostly their own ethnic groups by word-of-mouth with no oversight. He said he worked with then U.S. Rep. Spark Matsunaga, the future senator whose father was an acupuncturist, to write the first regulatory law for acupuncturists.

During his many years on the board, he helped shape Hawaii’s laws and regulations regarding acupuncture, as well as deciding on individual license applications.

Hashimoto had been appointed to the board most recently by Gov. David Ige in 2016. It was a four-year term, but Hashimoto left in 2018, apparently because he had hit the limit of how many consecutive years board members can serve.

Hashimoto continued to serve on the board for more than two years after Moya made her accusation. The governor’s office said it did not know about it until Civil Beat asked about it and that there is no mechanism allowing the governor to find out that an appointee is facing such charges.

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