Lingle acted late, not 'immediately,' in Awana departure
Bob Awana resigned as chief of staff to Gov. Linda Lingle after being linked to federal investigations.
GOV. Linda Lingle said last week
that she and Bob Awana, her chief of staff, agreed that he resign "immediately." Awana has cooperated with the FBI in a blackmailing case and was questioned about a separate public corruption probe, but the only development requiring action "immediately" was public disclosure of the cases, which were initiated a year or more ago.
Awana has said he informed Lingle about the blackmailing investigation when it began. According to reports, the FBI provided $4,000 for Awana to send to Radjatta Patkar, a computer expert accused of demanding $35,000 from Awana. Patkar allegedly threatened Awana that he otherwise would expose "unseemly e-mails" sent by Awana to a young Filipina woman living in Davao in September 2005.
Patkar, living in Japan, was indicted in Honolulu on blackmailing charges in April 2006, following the sting operation. The indictment and Patkar's arrest in March of this year went unnoticed by Hawaii media because Awana was identified in court documents only as "R.A." Awana says he nevertheless informed Lingle promptly.
On May 29, Patkar's arrest was reported by the Calcutta Telegraph, naming Awana as the alleged victim and describing him as "the secretary to the governor of Hawaii." The article was e-mailed anonymously to Greg Mebel, a reporter for the weekly Maui Time, according to Mebel.
Mebel reported that he e-mailed a copy of Patkar's indictment to Awana on June 8, requesting comment. Awana responded by planting a front-page article in the Honolulu Advertiser about his cooperation in the case, although not describing the nature of the alleged blackmail.
Among the allegations are that Awana urged the woman to bring female friends to meet men on official trips with Awana. He had been in the Philippines with Lingle on a 34-person "Aloha Week Goodwill Mission" in Ilocos Norte in January 2005.
Awana also has acknowledged that he has been questioned by federal investigators about allegations that he bribed the former governor of Saipan. Awana owns 16 percent of Saipan Waste Management, which was awarded a $1 million landfill contract from 2002 to 2007 that was canceled in 2005 by Saipan's new governor. Awana has denied the allegations, and no charges have been filed.
Lingle has declined to answer questions about the cases because of pending investigations. That will no longer be the case in the bribery case if Patkar pleads guilty today in federal court, as expected. At the very least, the governor needs to explain why Awana's resignation was necessary "immediately" last week but not when, according to Awana, she learned about the allegations more than a year ago.