Hawaii governor wants tourism official sacked


HONOLULU (eTN) – The governor of Hawaii, Linda Lingle, has made it clear that she wants Hawaii Tourism Authority (HTA) top executive Rex Johnson fired, after fresh allegations of misconduct have surfaced against the controversial Hawaii tourism official.

Gov. Lingle asked for Johnson’s resignation Saturday, immediately following reports that he had e-mailed racist and sexist jokes using his state computer. According to local newspaper reports, in one of the e-mailed jokes Johnson referred to Sen. Barack Obama as a “coon” and Sen. Hillary Clinton as a “beaver.”

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HTA’s board of directors should remove Johnson immediately “if he does not have the class to resign,” Lingle told reporters. “It’s just clear that Rex Johnson has to do the right thing for the people of Hawai’i, for Hawaii’s future, and resign his position immediately.”

In his defense, Johnson issued a statement on Saturday. He said: “”As I’ve said before, I understand that my actions were a huge error in judgment and will never happen again. If the content of these forwarded e-mails have offended anyone, this was not my intention and I sincerely apologize.”

HTA board of directors chair Kevin Bloom has reportedly asked board members to summon a special meeting “as soon as possible” to consider what action to take.

This was not the first time Johnson’s actions have landed him in the hot seat. Last month, the board reprimanded Johnson after an audit found that he had used his state computer to e-mail pornographic material. That “error in judgment” has cost Johnson annual pay reduced from $240,000 to $200,000 and cut his four-year contract to one year.

While his fate is yet to be determined, Gov. Lingle has made her case: she wants Johnson out. “This is not a person,” she said, “we want to lead the agency that’s responsible for promoting our state’s most important industry.”

Johnson has served as HTA’s top executive since 2002.