Hawaii Tourism Authority leader on contract termination: ‘I’m going to respect that decision’

Local News

Hawaii Tourism Authority president and CEO George Szigeti is leaving his post.

The announcement was made Thursday morning during an HTA board meeting.

A spokesperson for HTA says Szigeti’s contract, which was supposed to last until June 2020, was terminated without cause.

Szigeti says the decision didn’t come as a surprise.

“I’ve been in discussion with the board and that’s why we mutually agreed upon a termination without cause, and they made a decision today that they want to take another direction, and I respect the board,” he said.

Szigeti took over as HTA president and CEO in 2015, managing Hawaii’s marketing initiatives to support tourism.

He says he’s proud of what he and his team have accomplished.

“It’s been a good three-year run with record arrivals, record spending, record tax revenue back to the state, record access back to the state with the seats going from 10.5 to 12 million with new airlines coming in, and the most important thing is record job creation for our local people,” Szigeti said.

Despite the positives, HTA’s image has been marred in recent months. In February, an audit blasted the authority for extravagant spending and not enough accountability.

“It’s public money, and that’s our public finding. They’re a public agency. They have to be more accountable, have to be more responsible with public money,” state auditor Les Kondo said on Feb. 22.

“We always want to get better, and if so, it’s always our goal if something can be pointed out that we can get better at, then we’re going to try to do it,” Szigeti said. “The only thing I would say on that is, it was a 42-month audit, and we were 12 of the 42 months, but we’ll take ownership.”

After the audit, state lawmakers pushed to hold HTA more accountable, even at one point proposing to slash its annual budget by 44 percent.

We asked, do you think any of that had to do with what happened today?

“I think the board wants to take a new direction, and I’m going to respect that decision, and with the current political climate, someone coming in with a new perspective certainly can’t hurt,” he replied.

Szigeti’s last day will be Oct. 31, after which he will receive a severance of six months worth of pay.

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