OHA settles sexual harassment claim against trustee for $50K
HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - The Office of Hawaiian Affairs has settled a sexual harassment claim against OHA Trustee Peter Apo for $50,000, Hawaii News Now has learned.
Sources said the former OHA staffer accused Apo of inappropriately touching her several times in 2015.
People familiar with the deal said that the woman also alleged that Apo was using his state office for his private business.
"This is wrong. It's using trust funds to cover up inappropriate sexual activity of an elected official and quite frankly he should be made to pay his own costs and removed from office," said Hawaiian activist and attorney Mililani Trask. "Fifty thousand Hawaiian trust dollars were expended to cover up a personal problem of an elected official."
OHA declined comment and sources said the settlement came with no admission of wrongdoing. Apo also denied the allegations.
"There's no merit. ... I can't really talk about it," Apo said.
Sources said the woman, who wants to remain anonymous, worked at OHA for several years.
Trask said she spoke with the woman early last year. Trask said the woman faced retaliation at OHA after she complained.
"She told me at the time that she had been placed on leave with pay. That was changed to leave without pay. She basically got a notice to clean up her office and get out," Trask said.
OHA hired an outside attorney to investigate the woman's claims but sources say the lawyer's report has not been shared with the full board.
The secret settlement is one reason OHA's new board Chairwoman Rowena Akana is calling for an investigation into OHA's finances.
"At this point, I think we have to demand a forensic audit. And many of the candidates this last election" were calling for an audit, Trask said.
The state auditor's office has already started its own financial review which is expected to be completed this summer.
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