DLNR head alleges Hanohano mistreated staff

Rep. Faye Hanohano is in hot water again over allegations of racially discriminatory behavior.


Rep. Faye Hanohano is in hot water again over allegations of racially discriminatory behavior.

In a letter sent to House Speaker Joseph Souki on Tuesday, state Department of Land and Natural Resources Chairman William Aila complained about comments he said the Big Island lawmaker made to his staff during several recent legislative committee meetings.

Writing that his staff views Hanohano’s actions as “abusive in authority, racially discriminatory, and inappropriate,” Aila listed events in his letter that included the legislator blaming a DLNR staff member for genocide and complaining about malihini, or newcomers, making decisions when staff were commenting on legislation.

Additionally, Aila wrote that the lawmaker lectured staff in Hawaiian without providing them a translation and asked them if they agreed that land was stolen from Hawaiians.

“We believe in accountability and stand ready to answer hard questions by lawmakers,” Aila said in his letter. “But DLNR leadership and staff have no level of confidence in testifying before a hearing in which Rep. Hanohano is present that they will be treated fairly or with respect by her.”

Hanohano, D-Puna, didn’t return requests for comment Wednesday.

The allegations come a week after a college student complained about her making dismissive remarks about Westerners and treating him rudely during a committee meeting.

Following that incident, Souki, D-Waihee, Waiehu, Wailuku, said a special committee will conduct an inquiry into her behavior.

Last year, Hanohano, who is Native Hawaiian, also apologized for making racial and ethnic remarks in front of exhibit specialists after seeing that art installed in her office did not include work from Native Hawaiians.

A House spokeswoman said Wednesday no action has been taken yet in regard to the special committee. Penalties for misconduct could include censure, expulsion or removal from leadership positions.

Hanohano sits on five committees, and is the chairwoman of the House Committee on Ocean, Marine Resources, and Hawaiian Affairs.

Rep. Cindy Evans, who sits on three committees with Hanohano, said she couldn’t comment on the allegations.

“I have to be silent on it,” said Evans, D-Kohala, North Kona.

“We’re here as colleagues. We serve with her,” she added.


Aila, who is Native Hawaiian, wrote in his letter, which was a follow-up to a Feb. 7 meeting he had with Souki on the issue, that he has tried unsuccessfully to meet with Hanohano.

Email Tom Callis at tcallis@hawaiitribune-herald.com.