Green files harassment claim against lawmaker who compared housing director to the devil

“I will not tolerate anyone from my team being treated this way. In fact, I won’t tolerate anyone in the state being treated this way,” Green said.
Published: Jan. 31, 2023 at 7:17 PM HST|Updated: Jan. 31, 2023 at 11:40 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - State Sen. Kurt Fevella violated the Senate’s anti-harassment policy when he compared the state’s housing chief to “the devil” during a heated exchange, Gov. Josh Green told the Senate.

In a letter to Senate President Ron Kouchi, Green said Fevella’s recent comments about Housing Chief Nani Medeiros also violated the Senate rules barring offensive language about a person’s race.

“I will not tolerate anyone from my team being treated this way. In fact, I won’t tolerate anyone in the state being treated this way,” Green said, during an interview with Hawaii News Now.

During a Hawaiian Homes Commission meeting on Friday, Fevella said of Medeiros:

“She has nothing or no knowledge about Hawaiian people. I don’t care if she says she’s Hawaiian. Just remember now, the devil also was an angel. Remember that. So just because you’re Hawaiian doesn’t mean you have the passion for the people.”

Medeiros said the Republican lawmaker’s comments crossed the line.

“I got very upset. I was shocked that I was hearing what I was hearing,” she said. “

It was upsetting. It made me angry. In Hawaiian families, when you come after somebody in that family, especially for their Hawaiian-ness, you’re challenging their whole family; you’re challenging their history.”

Before she became the state’s housing chief, Medeiros worked with housing the homeless.

She even worked with Fevella on Green’s first homeless project in Fevella’s district.

“I thought he was a friend,” she said. “He’s made no effort to apologize.”

Hawaii News Now reached out to Fevella for this story, but he declined to be interviewed.

The governor’s complaint also said it’s not the first time Fevella has been accused of bullying his staff.

Administration officials point to comments Fevella made in the same DHHL hearing, criticizing Hawaiian Homelands Chair Ikaika Anderson. “He lied five times to us. That’s in the hearings. I’m not gonna say mislead, he lied,” Fevella said of Anderson on Friday.

The conflict comes as some lawmakers are expressing concerns over how the Green administration handles millions of dollars appropriated for Native Hawaiian housing.

But political experts said that’s no excuse for Fevella’s alleged behavior.

“I think when it comes to personal attacks, that really isn’t appropriate,” said Colin Moore, a University of Hawaii political science professor. “It just creates a more difficult governing environment where people begin to develop these personal animosities. It doesn’t really help us develop good public policy.”

Under the Senate’s rules, the Senate president will likely make an initial determination on the complaint’s merits and can refer it to a bi-partisan committee for further investigation.

Ultimately, a probe could lead to disciplinary action.

Kouchi said he received the complaint and has spoken with Fevella.

He said he looks forward to discussing the matter with the governor.