The Hawai'i Tourism Authority's Board of Directors accepted CEO Rex Johnson's resignation on Wednesday following the backlash he received for using his state e-mail account to send sexist, racist, and pornographic messages.
Johnson earned $240,000 per year since 2000 as head of the HTA. His salary was cut by the board to $200,000 after a state audit first revealed the pornographic e-mails this summer.
"At this point, certain accusations have made Rex a lightning rod for controversy," says HTA Board Chair Kelvin Bloom. "This has become a distraction to the effectiveness of the HTA and we respect his decision."
The resignation comes amidst a global economic crisis and a fledgling tourist economy in Hawai'i. In August, total air visitor expenditures dropped 17.6 percent, or $206.9 million, from last year to $970.7 million. The Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism attributes the decrease to lower daily spending and a 17.3 percent decline in airport visitor arrivals by 606,342 people.
Yesterday, Lloyd Unebasami was named as Johnson's interim replacement. Unebasami held senior positions at Dillingham Land Corporation and Ala Moana City Corporation prior to coming to HTA in 2000.
"As the Interim CEO, Lloyd will oversee the day-to-day operations of the agency and assist the HTA during this transition period as the search for a new Executive Director begins," Bloom says.-----