Senate panel
OKs former banker
for tourism board

Lawrence Johnson's nomination
will now go to the full Senate

By Pat Omandam

The Senate Tourism and Intergovernmental Affairs Committee has approved the nomination of former banker Lawrence M. Johnson to the Hawaii Tourism Authority board.

Legislature 2002 His nomination by Gov. Ben Cayetano now goes to the full Senate for confirmation.

Senate Tourism Chairwoman Donna Kim (D, Aiea) had raised concerns about Johnson's nomination after he had left an impression with her that he would attend meetings only if he were in town.

But those questions were answered after Johnson, former president of Bank of Hawaii, submitted his vision statement for the authority and acknowledged the management problems found with the authority in a recent state auditor's report.

"If my nomination is confirmed by the Senate, I will diligently pursue the changes necessary to comply with the auditor's findings and pay close attention to the operations that are necessary to fulfill its primary mission and basic functions," Johnson said in his statement.

The lone dissenter to his nomination was committee member Sam Slom (R, Hawaii Kai), who questioned how independent the Tourism Authority board will be, given Johnson is a member of the state's Democratic "old-boy network," he said.

Several prominent members of Hawaii's business community testified yesterday in strong support of Johnson's appointment to the board, including Walter Dods, chief executive officer of First Hawaiian Bank; H. Mitchell D'Olier, president of Victoria Ward Ltd.; and Robin K. Companiano, president of AIG Hawaii Insurance Co.

Slom said he also opposed Johnson's nomination because he did not see anything wrong with having closed-door meetings when the state Economic Revitalization Task Force met in the late 1990s to address the state's economic crisis.

One of the recommendations of the task force was the creation of the tourism authority, which is funded by revenue from the state hotel room tax.

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