HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - As he gears up for a City Council special election, Trevor Ozawa is facing heat over “disrespectful” behavior to a female staff member.
Hawaii News Now has obtained a copy of an internal investigation launched after Ozawa was accused of harassing another councilmember’s aide.
Paulyne Anakalea works for Councilman Ikaika Anderson and the internal investigation details four incidents that took place in July when Ozawa questioned ― and sometimes confronted ― her about her support for his opponent.
Ozawa, though, says the incidents weren’t meant to be disrespectful.
“Aunty Paulyne and I have been friends for many years and I still consider her a friend today,” Ozawa said.
He acknowledged he approached Anakalea at Honolulu Hale and outside of work to discuss whether she was sign-waving for Waters.
In one incident, before a committee meeting, the councilman confronted her at her cubicle and questioned her about why she was supporting his challenger, Tommy Waters.
Anakalea told her boss the interactions made her uncomfortable.
“I apologized that she ever felt that way. That makes me sad,” Ozawa said. “But during a campaign season, like I said, it’s a spirited time.”
In the report, three independent investigators concluded Ozawa “acted unprofessionally by engaging in disrespectful conduct towards Anakalea and harassing her by repeatedly confronting her about her protected and private political activities."
They concluded Ozawa violated the city’s respectful workplace policy and brought politics into the workplace.
Waters, who is running against Ozawa in a special election set for April, said the incidents are concerning. The two are squaring off after the state Supreme Court invalidated Ozawa’s razor-thin win over Waters in November.
Harassing a colleague over their political beliefs, Waters said, “stifles free speech and it stifles your ability to support who you want to support.”
Waters says he’s not surprised by his opponent’s behavior, but hopes he’s learned a lesson.
“He said that it was politically motivated, which is really concerning to me because it tells me that he doesn’t really realize that this behavior is unacceptable,” Waters said.
In the wake of the investigation, Ozawa is required to receive training on the city’s workplace policy. Councilmembers, directors, and staff are now also required to receive bi-annual training.