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Panel to probe Hawaii lawmaker after complaint

February 15, 2014 - 12:05am

HONOLULU — State House leaders plan to appoint a special committee to investigate Rep. Faye Hanohano after a college student complained she treated him rudely while testifying before a committee she chairs.

House Majority Leader Scott Saiki informed House Democrats of the investigation Thursday, the Honolulu Star-Advertiser reported.

Hawaii Pacific University environmental studies student Aarin Jacobs testified last week before the House Marine Resources and Hawaiian Affairs Committee in favor of a bill creating administrative penalties for harming sharks and rays in state waters.

The 22-year-old from Portland, Ore., told House leaders in an email Wednesday that Hanohano told him he wanted to take her food. He said Hanohano also asked whether she would have to resort to eating people if there was a taro famine and she faced penalties for eating shark.

Jacobs said Hanohano, a Native Hawaiian and a Democrat representing Puna on the Big Island, rhetorically asked the audience why Westerners come to Hawaii and tell people what to do. He said the representative also inquired about his age and then dismissed him with a “pfft” and told him to sit down.

The special committee will be made up of three Democrats and three Republicans and will determine whether the House should consider any disciplinary action.

Hanohano did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

In February 2013, Hanohano apologized on the House floor for offending people by using racial slurs to express disapproval of art in her office.

In that incident, the lawmaker used racial epithets disparaging white, Japanese and Chinese people as state art exhibit specialists were hanging artwork in her office, said Eva Laird Smith, executive director of the State Foundation on Culture and the Arts. She was complaining that the work wasn’t completed by Native Hawaiians.

Smith said the artwork depicted Hawaii nature scenes and had been approved by the representative’s office manager before exhibit specialists sought to install it.

Hanohano, a former prison guard, was first elected to the House in 2006.