House speaker hit with sexual harassment complaint
The Associated Press is reporting that Rachel Wong, the former head of Hawaii’s Department of Human Services has filed a sexual harassment complaint against former House Speaker Joe Souki.
According to Wong, she filed the complaint with the Hawaii State Ethics Commission, but she did not offer any details to the media because the investigation is ongoing. But Souki’s team is speaking out, at least to a point. His representative, Michael Green, says the whole complaint is based on a simple misunderstanding.
Green, according to the Honolulu Star-Advertiser, claims Wong is complaining that Souki called her “perky” during a meeting, then kissed her on the cheek when shaking hands after the same meeting. Green added:
“(Souki) never intended to make her uncomfortable and never intended to have it be sexual harassment…” Green said Souki was just “showing aloha” and wondered aloud why Wong waited three years to file the complaint.
Meanwhile, current House Speaker Scott Saiki released a statement affirming that the investigation was ongoing and that he would not make any recommendations until the facts related to the allegations were clarified. Saiki took the opportunity to tout the House’s updated training practices intended to stop workplace harassment.
Green, too, asked that due process be given an opportunity in this case: “All you need is for the accuser to say it happened, or the opportunity to have it happen and the person is history… Now it’s all over the place, front page.”
Wong did address the question of why she failed to report the issue earlier. As a member of state government, she said she worried about retaliation if she spoke out against the Speaker. However, recently, Wong reached a point at which she “could no longer not say or do anything…”
So, at least at this point, it’s another he-said/she-said situation… Except, this time, the “he” and the “she” are not really saying much, seemingly content to let the process do the heavy lifting… at least for now. Wong said she’s done talking until after the verdict, and Souki has also been quiet about it.
Regardless of how this all shakes out, the allegation will not just fade away for Souki or Wong. We don’t know, yet, how long this kind of accusation and defense will hang around, but in the current social climate, it probably won’t disappear on its own. That means both sides will want to have statements and narratives prepared regardless of the resolution of the investigation.