Souki to Resign Amid Ethics Commission Settlement

March 21, 2018, 6:12 AM HST · Updated March 26, 10:34 AM
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State Rep. Joe Souki. File photo (2010) by Wendy Osher.

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.

Lieutenant Governor Doug Chin was among those who applauded Rachael Wong, the woman who brought forth claims against the Maui lawmaker.

Chin called Wong a friend and colleague and said he deeply respects her courage and integrity.  “Her actions will help empower more women in Hawaiʻi to feel safe enough to speak out and let their voices be heard,” said Chin.

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Souki’s legislative career spanned more than three-and-a-half decades beginning in 1982 as Representative for the 8th district (Kahakuloa, Waiheʻe, Waiehu, Puʻuohala, Wailuku and Waikapū) on the island of Maui where he was born and raised.

He served as Speaker of the House from 1993 to 1999, and Speaker Emeritus from 2000 to 2013 before being re-elected as Speaker of the House in January of 2013, serving in the capacity until 2017.  He also served as Chair of the Committee on Finance, and most recently as Chair of the Committee on Transportation.

According to his profile with the Hawaiʻi Legislature, Souki returned to Maui after receiving a BBA from Woodbury University in California.  His service in the community has included roles as an independent businessman, realtor and 16 years as the Executive Director of the Maui Economic Opportunity, Inc.

State Rep. Kaniela Ing of Maui issued a statement this morning saying:

“Joe Souki has been one of our state’s most influential politicians for decades, and his stepping down tells powerful men everywhere that “you cannot get away with this.”

While the State Ethics Commission promptly addressed this matter, I have urged the House to enforce our zero tolerance policy if it were to come to that. Souki’s resignation is a sign that Hawaiʻi’s culture of silence and shame around sexual harassment is shifting to one of empathy and truth.

Rachel Wong deserves praise and admiration for bravely speaking out. Her courage will empower other women to unleash their stories and hold to account those all who abuse their power.”

House Speaker Scott K. Saiki also released a statement saying:

“As you know, the State Ethics Commission announced that it has reached a settlement agreement with Representative 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, Representative 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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