Activist, wealthy heiress team up to sue OHA trustee over sex harassment settlement

Activist, wealthy heiress team up to sue OHA trustee over sex harassment settlement

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Native Hawaiian activist Mililani Trask and attorneys for royal descendant Abigail Kawananakoa have sued Office of Hawaiian Affairs Trustee Peter Apo, calling for him to pay back $50,000 or resign.

Hawaii News Now first broke the story that OHA paid a former staffer $50,000 to settle sexual harassment claims against Apo. Trask and Kawananakoa's attorneys said Apo's alleged misconduct is hurting a state agency established to help Native Hawaiians.

"This is inappropriate and reprehensible conduct on the part of an elected official and certainly we should not be paying for it," Trask said.

In the past, Apo has denied the allegations. And in a redacted, three-page settlement agreement obtained by Hawaii News Now through a state open records law request, there was no admission of wrongdoing.

But in the lawsuit, Trask said the woman confided in her that she often traveled with Apo to the neighbor islands, where much of the alleged harassment occurred.

"The harassment included invitations to his (hotel) room, appearing partially clothed, and un-consented physical contact," the suit said.

Apo could not be reached for comment Friday.

The settlement, signed by former OHA Chair Robert Lindsey, was kept secret until board members asked for the details.

That settlement could backfire on other trustees, who knew about the allegations but did nothing to investigate them.

"If these things cannot be addressed by OHA ... we will probably see further litigation and I myself am keen to support it," Trask said.

OHA declined comment and Lindsey could not be reached.

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