RESPONSE TO TRUSTEE PETER APO'S FALSE CLAIMS ON OHA'S SEXUAL HARASSMENT SETTLEMENT
From Mililani Trask
Aloha Hawaiian Beneficiaries and Voters, January 21, 2017
On January 17th, 2017, OHA Trustee Peter Apo responded to my live interview with reporter Rick Daysog of Hawaii News Now about recent revelations that the State Office of Hawaiian Affairs had settled out a Sexual Harassment claim against Trustee Apo by agreeing to pay $50,000.00 in Trust funds to keep the case from being filed during the election period. Trustee Apo claimed that I was a disgruntled candidate who lost the election and that my statements had no basis of fact.
In this email and others to follow, I am going to present information regarding OHA Trustee Peter Apo that I received personally and later filed with the State Ethics Commission as formal Complaints in March and April of 2016. Because no corrective action has been taken by the state regulatory bodies for months and because OHA continues to be plagued by in-fighting caused by the outgoing Trustee Majority, including Trustee Peter Apo, I have decided to reveal the information I have so that there will be more accountability and transparency in OHA.
I. Trustee Peter Apo’s Sexual Harassment Complaint 2015:
In early 2016 I received a call from a friend who asked me to meet someone who needed help. It was a young woman who had been working at OHA as a staffer for Trustee Peter Apo. She had been hired in 2015 to fill the staff vacancy left when Apo’s former aide, Makana Chai left for a job at Kamehameha Schools/Bishop Estate. The woman who I will refer to as the “victim” was looking for legal help to file a Sexual Harassment case against Apo & OHA and was afraid of retaliation.
I agreed, and met with her at a friend’s home. The meeting lasted 4 hours. During this time, I listened to her story and personally reviewed and copied several communications and documents she had from the OHA office.
She had just graduated from law school and went to OHA to “work for her people”. It was the fulfillment of her dream and she was thrilled to be working with Trustee Peter Apo, an OHA Board member. Soon after she began work her dreams were dashed. Apo began to make inappropriate sexual comments and she was regularly subjected to his harassing comments and sexual advances. Things got worse when she was required to travel to the neighbor islands for OHA BOT meetings and community hearings that required she stay at the same hotel he was booked at. She gave me the details that included inappropriate verbal harassment but also unconsented physical contact. After months of enduring this, she decided to file a formal Complaint with the OHA Administrator and Human Resources Staff. An effort was made to dissuade her but when she insisted, OHA Administration initiated their formal Sexual Harassment Complaint process. It involved an investigation by an independent attorney (OHA board attorney Bob Klein and Ernie Kimoto were conflicted out because they are attorneys for BOT Trustees). Following the investigation a report would be made to all parties including the employee and a resolution would be recommended. She went through the process, filed written statements, met with the attorney but was never given the final report. Instead, Apo told her he wanted to bring Makana Chai back and that she would be leaving her present employer to return to OHA. The Administrator placed the victim on leave with pay but later this was changed to leave without pay, and termination.
When I met with her she had already interviewed several attorneys who specialized in Sexual Harassment cases and who were reviewing her case, but she had not retained counsel formally. At our meeting she showed me several documents from OHA. She said that she had come under pressure from Apo to do work that did not relate to OHA. It was work for his private company, The Peter Apo Company. She told me that Trustee Apo’s office and work computer were filled with data & correspondence relating to his private company. This included correspondence relating to articles for his Civil Beat contract, private business meetings with Peter Apo Company clients, billing statements for his private company and even a monthly and weekly calendar of meetings he attended with his OHA secretaries for private business purposes. She showed me these documents all of which verified use of OHA staff, equipment., financial resources and offices during working hours for Peter Apo Company.
When I asked her why she had removed the data from her office at OHA, she said she was afraid because she knew it was not right to use a State office for private business and that she was worried that when this misuse was made public she would be blamed because she had been Apo’s staffer & people would think she had been the secretary who broke the law. She showed me several documents sent out by other Apo staffers. She said she personally never performed any task for Apo’s company. I asked if I could copy the documents and told her I was going to use them to file an Ethics Complaint as a beneficiary. She agreed to allow me to copy the documents. This is how I acquired the data I used in my interview with Hawaii News Now and Rick Daysog.
In March and April of 2016, I and another beneficiary who have worked together for OHA accountability and transparency filed two Ethics Complaints with the State Ethics Commission on these and other facts demonstrating extensive violations of State law at OHA. The election was held in November, 2016, and 7 months later. No corrective action was ever taken by the State Ethics Commission. I have also received credible information that several other Ethics Complaints have been filed by Trustees of OHA, Beneficiaries and staff, none of which have ever been acted on.
I do not retract or regret the statements I made to Hawaii News Now last week. I thank Hawaii News Now for having the integrity to seek out, confirm and report on the activities of publicly elected officials whose conduct violates our Sate laws.
Over the next few days, I will be publishing more data on Apo’s use of the OHA offices for personal business to advance his contract with Civil Beat, to obtain benefits for himself and friends relating to the Kaka’ako development and other questionable transactions.
I call on Peter Apo to come out publicly and admit or deny that an OHA staffer filed a Sexual Harassment claim against him in 2015 and that a Settlement was reached with OHA agreeing to a settlement paid with Public Trust funds belonging to Hawaiian beneficiaries.
Today, women are marching nationwide and in Hawaii for equality & fair treatment. We cannot and should not tolerate Sexual Harassment of women in the workplace. Government officials, whether elected or appointed, who engage in Sexual Harassment should be removed from office. Peter Apo should resign his office and repay any money taken from our peoples trust for his misdeeds.
Tomorrow I will address how Peter Apo has used the OHA office, staff and trust resources to further his private contract with Civil Beat.
For the purpose of transparency and accountability, I am confirming that I have forwarded this public communication to all 9 members of the OHA Board of Trustees including Trustee Peter Apo.
Mililani B. Trask