HONOLULU — State Rep. Faye Hanohano has been racially discriminatory and inappropriate to staff members of the state Department of Land and Natural Resources, the department's chairman said.
William Aila told House Speaker Joe Souki in a letter that Hanohano made disparaging comments toward department staff at committee hearings on several occasions, the Honolulu Star-Advertiser (http://bit.ly/1eT2pjO) reported.
The allegations come one week after a college student complained Hanohano treated him rudely when he testified before a committee she chairs.
House leaders have said they intend to assign a special committee to look into Hanohano's conduct after receiving several complaints.
"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, a Democrat representing Hawaiian Acres and Pahoa, didn't immediately respond to a message seeking comment Wednesday.
AIla's letter alleges Hanohano, who is Native Hawaiian, asked a department staffer during a water and land committee hearing this month whether the staffer agreed that land was stolen from many Hawaiians, specifically on the neighbor islands.
It claims Hanohano, speaking this month during a marine resources committee hearing related to Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument, told a department staffer that the staffer was responsible for genocide.
In another example, the letter claims Hanohano made a comment about malihini, or newcomers, making policy decisions as she spoke before two white department staffers.
Aila, who is also Native Hawaiian, said Hanohano has lectured department staff in Hawaiian knowing that the staffers did not speak or understand the Hawaiian language. Members of the department staff have felt disrespected because they believe Hanohano was acting with "angry spirit and discriminatory intent," he said.
Aila said he has tried to meet personally with Hanohano to discuss his concerns, but she declined the opportunity.
"We just thought that the speaker needed to be aware of it and the speaker needed to talk to Chairperson Hanohano to try to get her to be more cordial," he told the Star-Advertiser.
Information from: Honolulu Star-Advertiser, http://www.staradvertiser.com