Johnson to receive $291,000
By Curtis Lum
Advertiser Staff Writer
By Curtis Lum
Former Hawai'i Tourism Authority chief Rex Johnson will receive more than $291,000 in severance and vacation pay as the result of a negotiated settlement with the HTA board.
The board yesterday released the terms of an amended employment agreement with Johnson, who was forced to resign on Oct. 8 after it was discovered that he had used his state computer to forward pornographic, racist and sexist e-mails.
Johnson had 10 months remaining on his contract and board members had to decide how much severance pay he would receive.
The HTA board said it would honor the terms of the contract and pay Johnson the balance owed to him through Aug. 20, 2009. He will receive nearly $10,000 a week, or $208,181, plus 722 hours of unused vacation, which will be paid at a rate of $115.38 an hour, or $83,304.
Johnson's original contract had called for him not to be paid for unused vacation if he failed to give a 30-day notice. That clause was removed in the amended agreement.
The turmoil surrounding the agency comes as the tourism industry is experiencing double-digit declines in visitor arrivals and spending from a year ago. Last week, the state reported September visitor arrivals plunged 19.5 percent in September from the same month a year earlier. And on Monday an industry consulting group reported hotel occupancy in September was the lowest since the months following the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
Kelvin Bloom, HTA chairman, said he hopes the agency can now move forward with its mission to promote the state to the world.
"Recognizing the need for HTA to focus on more significant tourism issues without further distraction, the board has concluded this matter as expeditiously as possible," Bloom said in a statement.
In August, Johnson survived an attempt to oust him over the pornographic e-mail, but the HTA board cut his annual pay by $40,000 to $200,000 and shortened his four-year contract to one year.
But when the existence of the racist and sexist jokes was uncovered, Johnson and the HTA board faced harsh criticism from civic groups, community leaders and Gov. Linda Lingle, who demanded that Johnson resign or be fired.
Following hours of closed-door meetings, the board last month accepted Johnson's resignation. The former director of the Department of Transportation in the Waihee administration had headed the HTA since 2002.
A day after his resignation, the HTA named its chief administrative officer, Lloyd Unebasami, as interim president and chief executive officer. The search for a permanent president began immediately and the next step was to determine Johnson's severance pay.
Reach Curtis Lum at email@example.com.