Until the end, Awana knew the score
UNTIL Thursday when he resigned , Bob Awana occupied a governmental curiosity. According to a Legislative Reference Bureau study, Hawaii is the only state that has a note about the governor's staff written into its Constitution.
"The governor shall appoint an administrative director to serve at the governor's pleasure," our state Constitution reads.
It has proven to be a smart approach to government, because while you can say "the Lingle administration" or "Gov. Lingle is moving to enforce tax compliance," she doesn't do it alone.
Obviously Lingle can't supervise every one of the more than 50,000 state employees.
But Awana gave the impression that if he wasn't personally watching, he would be soon.
Awana left the Lingle administration after two federal probes mentioned him, one as a complaining witness and the other as a possible suspect. Even before that, Awana was a source of some concern.
According to Republican and sometimes administration critic Sen. Sam Slom, Awana had raised the level of supervision to that of political "bigfoot."
"His political footprint" had raised questions, Slom says. The facts bear Slom out to the extent that Awana was the one who saw a captain in the Philippine Army guarding Lingle in 2006 and got him a job guarding her in Hawaii.
It was Awana who took control of the far-flung transportation department when it was decided that former director Rod Haraga wasn't delivering. And it was Awana who sealed the deal for Lingle's most controversial decision, her acquiescence to a excise tax increase to fund a Honolulu rapid transit system.
Awana is a big bear of a man with an avuncular style that Slom says has caused him to be called Lingle's Karl Rove, after the GOP political guru working as political advisor to George Bush.
Awana was Lingle's soulmate in the 1998 campaign, picking her up every morning for a swim at the Nuuanu Y, then piloting her around Oahu in a big campaign van. The devotion earned Awana the title "campaign manager for life."
Although he could not go to college because of the birth of his first child, he rose through the business world and then the political world, as a Democratic Party worker.
By 1980, he was working for former Honolulu Mayor Eileen Anderson. Then he was a lobbyist and by 1997 he was volunteering for Lingle's campaign for governor.
All along, according to Slom, while he was serving as the most loyal chief of staff, Awana was making political enemies. Slom says that it was rumored that Awana even kept his own enemies list.
But by last week it was clear that Awana's own enemies were keeping score and there was no one to save him from the allegations and innuendoes.