Former State Workers Say Governor's Office Was Warned about Alexander
By Chad Blair
Honolulu Civil Beat
February 10, 2012
|Chad Blair/Civil Beat|
Gov. Neil Abercrombie's office was warned in an email about inappropriate sexual behavior by Marc Alexander shortly after he was appointed homeless coordinator, two people who handled correspondence for the administration told Civil Beat.
Alexander resigned "to attend to personal matters" a year later after an activist threatened to make public a woman's allegations against him when he was a Catholic priest.
Joseph Woodard and Carolyn Golojuch say they worked in the governor's Office of Constituent Services when the email came in.
When Alexander resigned last month, the governor's spokeswoman told Civil Beat he didn't learn of the allegations until Mitch Kahle, leader of Hawaii Citizens for the Separation of State and Church, reached out recently.
After Kahle's allegations surfaced, Civil Beat filed an open records request for all correspondence between the public and the governor's office in January and February 2011. It received just 15 letters in response from the attorney general's office.
The two former workers say there were many more, including the one alleging sexual misconduct.
"I would push harder on the FOIA," Woodard said, referring to a Freedom of Information Act request. "They are lying to you."
Instead of responding to the woman's email as they did to others, Woodard and Golojuch took it directly to Renee Sambueno, director of Constituent Services. They said Sambueno took the email to Abercrombie's then-chief of staff, Amy Asselbaye.
Civil Beat was not able to reach Asselbaye, who resigned in October. Messages were also left Thursday with Sambueno and the Office of the Attorney General.
Both Woodard and Golojuch described the email about Alexander as "hot."
"The lady who wrote was basically somewhat aghast — that's the best way to comment — that the governor would appoint Marc Alexander to this high-level position, very visible, very publicized, when he had baggage from his service as a priest and with the diocese," said Woodard, now living in Arlington, Texas.
"I said, 'This is highly sensitive. This woman has put her email and home address and signed her name and said I was sexually harassed.' It was two pages. She said this was a known issue, that Bishop (Larry) Silva was well aware of this issue, and how could a governor appoint somebody to this position — the homeless czar — knowing these issues existed? She laid it all out."
The Catholic Diocese has repeatedly declined to comment on the allegations.
Golojuch said the woman was not satisfied with the church's response.
"She told the governor that it was dangerous to put him in postion to have power over people again," Golojuch said.
Woodard and Golojuch said they never heard what happened to the email that was given to Sambueno to take to Abercrombie's chief of staff.
"We took it for granted that someone else upstairs would handle it," Golojuch said, referring to the fifth floor of the Capitol, where the governor's office is located (Constituent Services is on the fourth floor). "We did not believe anyone would let the letter slide."
On Jan. 27, KGMB reported that Alexander sent the television station a letter admitting to an affair with a "consenting adult woman, while I was an ordained member of the Catholic priesthood."
The two said they decided to speak to Civil Beat because they didn't feel the full story about Alexander had been told.
Woodard was a volunteer who had previously worked as a senior policy adviser for the Department of Human Services in the Lingle Administration. He hoped to be hired by the new administration but was not retained.
"I was very interested in this issue, but there is no hidden agenda," said Woodard. "I'm bipartisan. I was aware that this could blow up on the governor, and I feel the administration saw this."
Golojuch (pronounced "go-LOY-you") had volunteered at Abercrombie's campaign headquarters in 2010, served as a volunteer in Constituent Services after the election and held a three-month, full-time position from April through June.
"I thought he was gay," Golojuch said of Alexander, adding, "I was a Catholic for 50 years."
Golojuch has been an outspoken critic of Alexander's strong opposition to same-sex marriage and civil unions. She is president of PFLAG-Oahu, which stands for Parents, Family, Friends of Lesbians and Gays.
She has also protested in support of Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests. But Golojuch insists that her primary concern with the email is whether someone had been victimized.
Email Story Raises Number of Questions
If the Abercrombie administration did receive the email described by Woodard and Golojuch, it would raise several questions.
The initial allegations about Alexander were made public by Kahle. But the email complaint Woodard and Golojuch say they saw appears to be different from the one that Kahle has used to support his allegations — possibly one sent by another woman concerned about Alexander's appointment but for similar reasons.
The email Kahle says he has, dated Feb. 22, 2011, and sent to the governor by a woman whose identity Kahle has declined to reveal, alleges that Alexander was the subject of a "sexual misconduct investigation when he quit to join your administration. I suggest you call the bishop to ask him specifically about this."
In response to Civil Beat's open records request to the governor, the Attorney General's Office provided copies of all emails or written correspondence mentioning Alexander in January and February of 2011. None of them resembled the emails witnessed by either Kahle or by Golojuch and Woodard.
Asked whether they recalled seeing only a handful of emails regarding Alexander's appointment, Golojuch said Constituent Services received "over 100" emails or letters regarding the Alexander appointment.
"Fifteen letters?" she said, laughing. "We got more than that in a day."
Woodard said he did not know how many emails there were about Alexander, but he said Constituent Services routinely received more than 400 emails a week. When "hot issues" like civil unions or rail transit were in the news, the count could grow to more than 800.
Alexander's appointment was arguably a "hot issue."
Woodard and Golojuch also say at least two other volunteers in Constituent Services saw the letter but were reluctant to speak publicly.
Tracking down the alleged emails may be difficult.
Woodard and Golojuch said Constituent Services, like many departments in the Abercrombie administration, uses an old version of Lotus Notes, a desktop software used for email. The software, Woodard and Golojuch say, automatically deletes emails after reaching storage capacity unless the emails are marked for archive.
A hard copy of the email in question was printed out to take to the fifth floor, say Woodard and Golojuch. Neither kept a copy.
The Attorney General's office sent Civil Beat a three-page PDF document listing the emails the governor's office received regarding Alexander. You can download the document here