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UPDATE 2: Rep. Souki to Resign Amid Allegations of Sexual Harassment

March 21, 2018, 7:47 AM HST
* Updated March 23, 8:10 AM
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House Speaker Joe Souki. Photo by Wendy Osher, Maui Now.

UPDATE 2: March 22, 2018,

The Hawaii Women’s Legislative Caucus released the following statement about sexual harassment and the announced resignation of Rep. Joseph M. Souki:

“We do not condone any form of sexual harassment. We should have safeguards in place so women and men are able to report their complaints without the fear of retaliation. The members of the Women’s Legislative Caucus will work with their respective leadership teams to improve our internal policies and procedures.”

UPDATE 1: March 21, 2018, 1:07 p.m.

Gov. David Ige released a statement regarding Rep. Joe Souki’s settlement with the state Ethics Commission:

“I thank the Hawai‘i State Ethics Commission for a fair and thorough investigation, and I commend Rachael Wong for her courage and leadership in giving a voice to harassment victims and increasing awareness across the state.

“Together, let’s work to ensure respectful, safe and harassment-free work environments for all. There must be zero tolerance for harassment of any kind in the workplace.”

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ORIGINAL March 21, 2018, 7:47 a.m.

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Long-time lawmaker and former house speaker Joe Souki of Maui will resign from his legislative post amid a state Ethics Commission settlement over allegations of sexual harassment.

The announcement is expected to be made public at 7:45 this morning.

Lt. Gov. Doug Chin applauded Rachael Wong, the woman who brought forth claims against the Maui lawmaker.

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Chin called Wong a friend and colleague and said he deeply respects her courage and integrity.

“Her actions will help empower more women in Hawaii to feel safe enough to speak out and let their voices be heard,” said Lt. Gov. Chin.

“Rachel Wong deserves praise for bravely speaking out,” said Rep. Kaniela Ing. “Rep. Souki has been one of the most powerful people in our state for decades, and his stepping down tells powerful men across Hawai‘i that “you cannot get away with this anymore.”
“While the investigation happened within the Ethics Commission, I have been urging the House to enforce our zero tolerance policy if it were to come to that,” said Rep. Ing. “I’m pleased to see swift and decisive action from the ethics commission. Souki’s resignation is a sign that Hawai‘i’s culture of silence and shame is shifting to one of empathy and truth.
“Wong’s example of courage will empower other women to unleash their stories and hold to account those all who abuse their power,” Rep. Ing concluded.
Hawai‘i House Speaker Scott K. Saiki released the following statement about the State Ethics Commission’s settlement agreement with Speaker Emeritus Joseph M. Souki:

“As you know, the State Ethics Commission announced that it has reached a settlement agreement with Rep. Joseph M. Souki concerning allegations of workplace harassment.

“Although it was not a signatory to the settlement agreement, the House of Representatives concurs with the settlement agreement and will abide by its terms.

“It is regrettable that a legislative career that spanned 36 years is ending in such a manner. As a legislator, Rep. Souki always put his constituents first. Maui will lose an able and courageous advocate.

“The House of Representatives takes a zero tolerance approach to workplace harassment, no matter the power or influence of the accused.

“The House takes workplace harassment matters very seriously.

“We have already increased training for House members and staff.

“As many other institutions are already doing nationwide, we will conduct a comprehensive review of our workplace policies. The objective is to ensure that the House is able to receive, investigate and adjudicate complaints in a timely and vigilant manner. We will also explore other means to ensure that people feel respected and safe in the workplace.”

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