Governor stays silent on Awana's departure
Lingle cites ongoing cases involving her former chief of staff
Gov. Linda Lingle, considered a skillful communicator, is refusing to discuss any of the details regarding the sudden departure of chief of staff Bob Awana.
Lingle says that because of a criminal court case and a possible federal investigation involving Awana, she will not say why her former campaign manager, political adviser and the state's administrative director abruptly resigned Thursday.
Lingle had two public appearances yesterday but refused to discuss Awana's departure.
Lenny Klompus, Lingle's senior communications director, and Russell Pang, chief of media relations, said Lingle will not take any questions beyond the 87-word statement issued last week.
In that statement, Lingle said she and Awana met Thursday and "mutually concluded it was in the best interest of all that he resign."
Awana is involved in a case in which an Indian national allegedly threatened to expose something about Awana if he was not paid $35,000. That matter was to go to trial next month, but the defendant is now expected to change his plea to guilty Thursday.
In the other case, Awana has acknowledged that he was asked by federal investigators about allegations that he bribed the former governor of Saipan. Awana denied the allegation.
Awana has said he told Lingle about both investigations when they first started. It is not known why Lingle decided only last week that Awana had to go, if she had known for more than a year that the investigations were ongoing.
Charles Freedman, communications director for former Gov. John Waihee, said many political leaders have refused to answer questions because of a pending investigation.
"It is not a new box she created. Other elected officials have used the same axiom," Freedman said.
"There are certainly times when not answering questions is a really bad idea. It depends on the circumstances," he added.
"The governor has done well in her overall communications efforts. She is gauged to be credible and generally available, so I don't think it hurts her as much as if she had repeatedly avoided the press.
"Maybe she will get a pass this time," Freedman speculated.
Republican Sen. Sam Slom said he thought Awana would eventually have to resign because of the investigations.
"The threat of a trial and disclosure and the resulting media attention just hastened it," Slom said.