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The Honolulu Advertiser

Updated at 6:07 p.m., Friday, June 29, 2007

Lingle's chief of staff, Bob Awana, resigns

Advertiser Staff Writers


Bob Awana, Gov. Linda Lingle's embattled chief of staff, was thanked for his service and leadership when he resigned from his position last night.

Advertiser library photo | December 2002

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Bob Awana, Gov. Linda Lingle's chief of staff, abruptly resigned yesterday amid a swirl of controversies surrounding his alleged role in a Saipan public corruption investigation and an alleged extortion attempt against him.

In a news release today, Lingle said she and Awana met yesterday and "mutually concluded it was in the best interest of all that he resign his position effective immediately."

"This is the first time the Lingle administration has even come close to a significant political scandal," said Bob Watada, former executive director of the state Campaign Spending Commission, whose investigations into the

campaigns of former Honolulu Mayor Jeremy Harris and ex-state Sen. Cal Kawamoto have led to tens of thousands of dollars in fines for illegal campaign donations.

"This controversy (surrounding Awana) is the type that has dogged the Harris campaign and Cal Kawamoto."

Lingle said in her statement: "It is with deep personal and professional regret that I make this statement."

"The state has benefited tremendously from Bob's service. I will miss his wise counsel, and I thank him for his leadership and the professionalism he brought to his job. I wish Bob and his family all the best in the future."

Awana did not return calls yesterday.

As chief of staff, Awana was the most influential member of Lingle's administration, serving as the point person on most major management and political issues.

The Advertiser reported on June 16 that Awana was questioned by federal agents last year in connection with a lucrative contract to operate a landfill in the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands.

Awana has denied wrongdoing but investigators with the inspector general's office of the U.S. Justice Department have asked him if Saipan Waste Management, in which Awana owns a 1/16th stake, bribed Saipan officials to

get the landfill contract.

Awana also was the alleged victim of an extortion attempt by an Indian national, 44-year-old Rajdatta Patkar, who is now in federal custody. A March 2006 federal grand jury indictment alleged that Rajdatta Patkar, a 44-year-old native of Mumbai, India now living in Tokyo, attempted to extort $35,000 from Awana in 2005.

Patkar has pleaded not guilty to the charges.