HTA faulted for delaying response to charges
STORY SUMMARY »
| READ THE FULL STORY
The Hawaii Tourism Authority is under fire again for failing to respond promptly to the latest allegations regarding its embattled top executive, who used his state laptop to send racist, sexist and pornographic e-mails to friends.
While the visitor industry has supported HTA Chief Executive Rex Johnson, Gov. Linda Lingle, the Hawaii Chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and bloggers throughout the state have called for his immediate resignation or firing.
The HTA said it would schedule a meeting to follow up on the latest allegations; however, that has not happened yet.
Instead, Johnson leaves Friday to represent the state's tourism interests in Japan.
FULL STORY »
The Hawaii Tourism Authority is drawing more public censure, this time for not promptly scheduling an emergency-response meeting to address new allegations regarding its embattled chief executive.
He leaves this week for Japan to take part in tourism-related gatherings
Gov. Linda Lingle, the NAACP and bloggers throughout the state have called for the immediate resignation or firing of HTA Chief Executive Rex Johnson since discovering that he forwarded racial and sexist e-mails, some denigrating Sens. Barack Obama and Hillary Rodham Clinton, in addition to the pornographic ones that almost cost him his job. So far, neither Johnson nor the HTA has dealt with their requests.
Johnson, who has been under fire since spring, said yesterday that he has not tendered a resignation and wants to get back to concentrating on the state's critical tourism issues. The visitor industry has widely supported him.
"The e-mails were not a reflection of my character or my beliefs, and I certainly did not want to offend anyone," Johnson said. "I am not a racist or sexist."
HTA Chairman Kelvin Bloom had said Friday that he was going to call for an emergency board meeting to discuss whether further action were required. The board was unaware of the scope of the e-mails forwarded by Johnson, Bloom said. However, the HTA has yet to schedule a follow-up meeting.
"There's a question about whether or not the meeting that I had hoped to schedule this week constitutes an emergency," Bloom said.
Without approval to call an emergency meeting, the earliest possible date that the HTA could legally gather would be Monday; however, it would be difficult to obtain the seven-voting-member quorum needed on that date, said Winfred Pong, HTA projects manager.
Johnson leaves Friday for Japan to participate in the Japan Association of Travel Agents trade show and to attend a Japan Hawaii Tourism Council meeting and will not return until Sept. 25. State Tourism Liaison Marsha Wienert and several other HTA board members are also scheduled to go to Japan.
Although she does not approve of his actions, Senate Vice President Donna Mercado Kim said Johnson's assurance that he will not "exercise this kind of bad judgment again" along with the punishment meted out by the HTA should suffice.
"I was under the impression that the HTA board had already addressed the issue of the inappropriate use of a computer when it took action," she said.
Kim said she might have felt differently about Johnson's continued employment if he had made the racist remarks himself or had been the author of the e-mails that he forwarded.
"If one was to give a Frank DeLima tape as a gift, does that make them a racist?" she said. "To me this is along similar lines."
Still, Johnson's apology is not enough for the Hawaii Chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and others who view Johnson's continued employment as state-sanctioned racism and sexism.
"This was the most important thing that the HTA had to deal with, and now they feel that a trip to Japan is more important than restoring the integrity and good will of the state," said NAACP President Alphonso Braggs.