'Perky' pants comment fueled sexual misconduct claim against lawmaker

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - On his last day in office, former Hawaii House Speaker Joe Souki issued an apology for "inappropriate and unacceptable behavior."

His two-sentence apology was part of a settlement over sexual harassment complaints. The settlement also said Souki must resign no later than Friday, pay an administrative penalty of $5,000 and not seek public office for at least two years.

Despite the settlement, Souki said last week he didn't do anything wrong and had "absolutely no memory of ever acting inappropriately with any women at any time as a member of the House or in a private setting."

Souki's resignation is part of the State Ethics Commission agreement that stemmed from allegations filed last fall by former Director of Human Services Rachael Wong and several other women.

Wong says she and a male colleague were in Souki's office on November 23, 2015 to talk about her department's priorities and documented the incident. During the meeting, Wong said Souki repeatedly made unprofessional comments about her appearance and age.

"I stuck out my hand to say good-bye and was told give me (Souki) a kiss," said Wong.

"Gotta lean over and let him kiss my cheek. It has nothing to do with an aloha kiss. It was a misuse and abuse of power and authority," she said.

Wong says as they left, Souki adjusted his pants.

"It was very clear to both of us. The standing up the holding of the belt buckle. The shimmying up of pants and there was no way to mistake what anatomical part was being referred to. Don't you think I'm perky?" said Wong referring to Souki.

 According to the settlement, Souki admitted to touching and kissing "more than one woman in ways that were inappropriate and unwelcome. He admits that this physical contact exceeded the boundaries of the customary 'aloha kiss.'"

Wong says she know of four other women who've filed ethics complaints — public and private executives — most well known. Souki's attorney, Michael Green, questions why Wong is still talking after Souki has resigned. She says to set the record straight, help other women and show that any type of harassment is wrong.

Green said the former House speaker decided to step down because he didn't feel it was appropriate to drag his family — or his accusers — through hearings on the issue.

"If you look at what we signed in the agreement, it basically said we apologize for that but if you ask specifically do you remember this or that, he doesn't and what he said publicly was that I never intended for it to be," said Green.

Souki, 86, was first elected to the state House in 1982. He served as House speaker from 1993 to 1999 and again from 2013 to 2017.

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