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House speaker formally reprimands lawmaker

March 7, 2014 - 6:21am

HONOLULU — Hawaii House Speaker Joseph Souki on Thursday formally reprimanded a House lawmaker for her conduct during public hearings, threatening her committee assignments.

Souki said in a letter to Rep. Faye Hanohano that he would remove her from all committee assignments if she is disruptive, disrespectful or discourteous.

“Your conduct during the public hearings was intimidating and displayed, at a minimum, a lack of respect and courtesy,” Souki said.

Hanohano did not immediately return a message seeking comment from The Associated Press.

Last month, a Hawaii Pacific University student told lawmakers Hanohano rudely upbraided him when he spoke at a committee hearing on shark fishing.

Six days later, Department of Land and Natural Resources chairman William Aila wrote Souki to say Hanohano had been abusive and racially discriminatory to department staffers.

Souki said an investigation found the complaints were substantially accurate. Hanohano’s behavior lessened public confidence in the integrity of the House.

“Your conduct was unacceptable, was in violation of the House Code of Legislative Conduct and was disruptive to our workplace,” Souki said.

Hanohano, a Democrat representing Puna, sits on five House committees. She is chairwoman of the Ocean, Marine Resources and Hawaiian Affairs Committee.

Hanohano, an outspoken advocate of Hawaiian issues, has been criticized for previous interactions. She apologized on the House floor last year after using racial slurs disparaging white, Japanese and Chinese people to express disapproval of art in her office.

This week, Hanohano stirred her colleagues again by speaking in Hawaiian on the House floor. When asked to translate, she responded: “I don’t want to translate. Mahalo.”

Both English and Hawaiian are recognized as the official languages of the state.

On Feb. 27, Hanohano delivered the Hawaiian word of the day to the House floor. She chose “mahaoi,” then read its definition: “bold, impertinent, imprudent, insolent, nervy, cheeky, rude, forward, presumptuous, saucy, brazen.”

She then used it in an example sentence and translated to English: “The reporters are rude.”

Souki said House leadership will monitor Hanohano for the rest of the legislative session.