Speaker Scott Saiki refuses to speak about reports of drinking but says Rep. Natalia Hussey-Burdick will not be disciplined.

Many people at the Hawaii State Capitol are still talking about reports of alcohol consumption among members of the House of Representatives at what has been described as a raucous after-hours party last month.

But the leader of that chamber is not one of them, at least publicly.

Cornered by reporters after a brief floor session Friday, Speaker Scott Saiki was asked whether it was appropriate for drinking to take place on the Capitol grounds.

“I don’t want to answer that,” he said. “I’m just answering questions about discipline.”

Reporters pressed Saiki to say more about what happened at the March 3 incident, but Cathy Lee, the House director of communications, ended the interview.

Scott Saiki, the speaker of the House of Representatives, is saying very little about a drinking party in his Capitol office. (David Croxford/Civil Beat/2023)

The drinking took place among numerous House members in Saiki’s fourth floor office, according to multiple sources. At some point Rep. Natalia Hussey-Burdick, who was part of the party along with other House members, attempted to alert the Honolulu Police Department.

“I texted a friend about my concerns that some people at the party seemed likely to drive drunk, and my friend in turn alerted members of the HPD,” she said in a statement released Thursday. “The police never arrived, and instead, word of this tip to the police somehow made its way to the people attending the party.”

It is unclear whether that actually happened. An inquiry into HPD was not answered Friday afternoon.

But many of Hussey-Burdick’s colleagues say she was upset that a bill she sponsored on the licensing of midwifery died that same week that the party was held when it failed to get a hearing in the House Finance Committee.

Hussey-Burdick, a freshman legislator representing a portion of Windward Oahu, said in her statement, “After much introspection I see now that the kind thing to do in this situation would have been to check in with my colleagues and try to arrange a safe way for them to get home.”

She said she apologized to her colleagues “for choosing an unkind course of action and I’m disappointed to see this being brought up again after having been resolved for over a month.”

Hussey-Burdick did not respond to messages asking her to clarify what she meant by “an unkind course of action.” She also wouldn’t talk about assertions by her colleagues that she had encouraged them to drink heavily or that her anger at the midwifery bill being killed caused her to retaliate.

What The Rules Say About Drinking At The Capitol

The Department of Accounting and General Services, which is in charge of state facilities and grounds, did not respond to multiple inquiries this week asking about regulations regarding alcohol use at the State Capitol.

But DAGs cites in its own adoption of Hawaii Administrative Rules on alcoholic beverages and drugs on state ground: “The use, possession, or sale of any alcohol or illegal drug, as defined in part IV of chapter 712 of the Hawaii Revised Statues, is prohibited. Any person who is under the influence of alcohol or drugs to such a degree that the person presents a danger to himself or to others, is prohibited from entering or remaining in or on any facility.”

Chapter 712 addresses “Offenses Against Public Health and Morals” while HRS 712-1250 on “promoting intoxicating compounds” says that is a misdemeanor.

Rep. Natalia Hussey-Burdick has apologized “for choosing an unkind course of action” when she tried to alert police about her colleagues drinking at the Capitol. (David Croxford/Civil Beat/2023)

And the House’s own code on Standards of Conduct states, “Members should conduct themselves in a respectful manner befitting the office with which they as elected officials have been entrusted, respecting and complying with the law and acting at all times in a manner that promotes public confidence in the integrity of the House.”

In spite of the drinking incident and Hussey-Burdick’s response to it, Saiki suggested that the matter is now closed.

“There is no discipline being taken against any House member,” Saiki said Friday. “Rep. Hussey-Burdick is still a committee member. She’s also the vice chair of our tourism committee. She has all of her assignments in place. There is no discipline being taken.”

Saiki was asked why there would be no discipline, considering that it appeared she actively tried to get some House members — including the speaker — in trouble.

The speaker answered this way: “Under the House rules, in order for a member of the House to be disciplined, we the House would have to form a special committee that would conduct public hearings on the matter and to make a recommendation to the House on whether or not discipline should be imposed. And if the recommendation is to impose discipline, then that recommendation goes to the House for a floor vote.”

Saiki did not say anything more, including when pressed.

But in addition to allowing for the establishment of an investigating committee, House rules also allow for censuring its members “for disorderly conduct or neglect of duty.”

It can also suspend or expel a member by a two-thirds vote of the total membership.

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