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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Wednesday, May 7, 2003

Ex-CEO of Kamehameha faced complaint in 1998

By Dan Nakaso
Advertiser Staff Writer

Six weeks before Hamilton McCubbin took over as chief executive officer of the Kamehameha Schools, the University of Wisconsin paid an assistant professor $85,000 after she alleged that McCubbin had made unwelcome sexual advances for two years.

Hamilton McCubbin on Monday stunned the community by announcing his resignation from Kamehameha Schools just four months after agreeing to a three-year contract extension.

Jeff Widener • The Honolulu Advertiser

McCubbin was dean of the school of human ecology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and Jikyeong Kang's supervisor at the time she alleged he began pursuing a romantic relationship with her, according to a complaint Kang filed in 1998 with the Wisconsin Personnel Commission.

"Since the summer of 1996, Dean McCubbin has repeatedly touched and kissed Dr. Kang in an inappropriate and unwelcome manner, persistently called her at home at night and on weekends, came to her house uninvited on the pretense of discussing work-related matters, asked her to massage him, and suggested his desire for an intimate relationship with her," according to the complaint filed by Kang.

In one of the incidents Kang described in her complaint, she alleged that she refused McCubbin's request for a massage in her home in 1997. McCubbin "asked if he would get a massage after she got tenure," according to the complaint. "... Dr. Kang found his requests and physical attentions frightening and coercive."

The existence of the Wisconsin complaint raises questions about how much then-interim Kamehameha Schools trustees knew about the case before recruiting McCubbin, and whether they questioned his reasons for abruptly resigning from the Wisconsin faculty in mid-1999.

On Monday, McCubbin, 61, stunned the community by announcing his resignation from Kamehameha just four months after agreeing to a three-year contract extension that paid him approximately $350,000 per year. Several people close to the situation said trustees had been investigating allegations for months that McCubbin had an inappropriate relationship with a female Kamehameha staff member.

McCubbin told The Advertiser Monday that he was unaware of any suggestions that he had an inappropriate relationship with anyone at Kamehameha. McCubbin did not respond to a request for an interview yesterday through a spokeswoman, Georgette Deemer.

Another person involved said yesterday that Kamehameha Schools' human resources department had investigated complaints that McCubbin gave preferential treatment to a female staff member, and determined the complaint was groundless. There is no connection between McCubbin's resignation and allegations about a relationship with a staff member, said the source, who asked not to be identified because of a confidentiality agreement covering McCubbin's departure from Kamehameha.

Complaint dropped

Hamilton McCubbin, speaking at a luncheon a month after being named CEO at Kamehameha Schools, left the University of Wisconsin as part of a settlement of a sexual harassment complaint against him.

Advertiser library photo • Feb. 22, 2000

The complaint and details of the Wisconsin settlement are public records, copies of which were obtained yesterday by The Advertiser. The documents are only part of a voluminous file on the case and do not contain any response from McCubbin.

The settlement documents make no mention of McCubbin, and no finding was issued. They say only that Kang agreed to drop her complaints with the Wisconsin Personnel Commission and the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

At the time of the settlement, The Capital Times, a Madison newspaper, quoted the executive assistant to the University of Wisconsin provost as saying the investigation "did not produce any findings of professional misconduct or policy violations."

Kang signed a settlement on Nov. 12, 1999, in which she agreed to leave the university without tenure and collect a lump sum of $85,813. Her resignation took effect on May 19, 2000.

She now teaches at the Manchester Business School in England, where she directs the masters of business administration program. She could not be reached for comment yesterday.

John Dowling, senior legal counsel for the University of Wisconsin-Madison, told The Advertiser on Monday that both Kang and McCubbin had to leave the university as part of the settlement.

When he announced his resignation from the university effective July 1, 1999, McCubbin told a Milwaukee newspaper the investigation into Kang's complaint had taken a personal toll, and that he resigned because he was "burned out." Asked about the complaint, McCubbin told the newspaper "no allegations are pending and none were proven accurate."

It's clear from the timing of the Kang complaint and the settlement that Kamehameha Schools trustees were recruiting McCubbin at the same time officials in Wisconsin were negotiating a settlement with Kang. The last signature on the settlement document was dated Nov. 17, 1999. McCubbin started at Kamehameha the first week of January 2000.

But one of the people familiar with the situation said it was McCubbin who brought up the Wisconsin case to the interim trustees. The source said trustee Robert Kihune asked McCubbin during an interview whether there was anything else the trustees needed to know.

"He was forthright," according to the person. "He raised the issue to them."

McCubbin was unaware of the settlement, the person said, or he would have mentioned that as well.

Kamehameha Schools spokeswoman Marsha Bolson said yesterday that neither school officials nor the trustees would comment on how far they looked into McCubbin's background before hiring him.

"In a situation where you're considering hiring somebody, obviously you have a duty to do some background investigation," said University of Hawai'i law professor Jon Van Dyke. "An employer does have a responsibility to provide a nonhostile workplace, a workplace where the employees are going to feel comfortable and able to do their work. This was in a school context, so I would think that Dr. McCubbin and others would assume that a higher level of appropriate conduct would be required because you're trying to train young people for leadership."

Even if Kamehameha officials had concerns about the Wisconsin case, the allegations could have been outweighed by McCubbin's experience and other strengths, Van Dyke said.

Future liability

It is also possible McCubbin made a compelling case that the allegations were unfounded. While Kang's complaint goes into great detail, with dates and times, most of it falls into the realm of "he said, she said," with few witnesses and physical evidence.

However, employers who hire someone accused of sexual harassment — especially for a top position — need to worry about possible future complaints that could reflect on their decisions.

"An employer can hire really anybody it wants to, even with full knowledge of whatever charges there might have been," said Ke-ching Ning, a Honolulu attorney who has successfully won discrimination lawsuits. "The problem might come later from some third party who says the employer should have known that such a person might cause a problem later on that might affect other people."

Detailed record

Kang was married when she arrived in Madison in 1989. She bought Christmas gifts for McCubbin, the assistant dean, department chair and others for five years until she got divorced. McCubbin is married with three children.

Between August 1996 and August 1998, Kang alleged that McCubbin repeatedly called her at her home and once made more than 10 calls in a single day. He twice gave her a "wet kiss on the lips," sent her roses and a pineapple from Hawai'i and changed his travel plans to be with her on a business trip to London.

Among the allegations in her complaint:

  • In November 1995, Kang said McCubbin sent her a card with a picture of a nude woman on it. The following summer, she said McCubbin made arrangements to meet with her outside of work and said, "he likes her 'Asian demeanor.' "

    "Though she tried to minimize these meetings," according to the complaint, "she felt powerless to avoid them entirely, given her professional duties and fear of the dean's power over her tenure."

  • In November 1996, McCubbin asked Kang for a massage and suggested they go into her bedroom. "Kang refused," according to the complaint. McCubbin "touched Kang's lap and shoulders and his hands lingered," according to the complaint.

  • In the summer of 1997, when both Kang and McCubbin were in London on unrelated business trips, according to the complaint, McCubbin gave Kang a key and invited her to his hotel room while he took a shower.

  • Kang changed her telephone number and kept her lights off at home to avoid McCubbin.

"Dr. Kang fears repercussions in her career as a result of filing this complaint," she wrote in her complaint. "Dean McCubbin has a reputation for vindictiveness and brags openly about his control over the tenure process."

Reach Dan Nakaso at dnakaso@honoluluadvertiser.com or 525-8085.