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Former UH president Dobelle sues Westfield State trustees

  • This 2002 file photo shows former University of Hawaii President Evan Dobelle at kickoff ceremony for Hawaii Skills Community

    This 2002 file photo shows former University of Hawaii President Evan Dobelle at kickoff ceremony for Hawaii Skills Community

BOSTON >> Suspended Westfield State University President Evan Dobelle has filed a federal lawsuit against university trustees and the state’s higher education commissioner.

In the lawsuit, Dobelle alleges trustees conspired to damage his reputation and violate his rights by investigating and suspending him amid criticism that he charged personal expenses on school credit cards and spent lavishly on foreign travel. The action, filed Thursday in Springfield, had been expected. The officials have previously denied Dobelle’s allegations.

The trustees placed Dobelle, a former University of Hawaii president, on paid leave last week and hired a Boston law firm to investigate his spending, which he has said benefited the university. The report is due by the board’s Nov. 25 meeting.

The lawsuit refers to Dobelle as a "visionary in higher education" who was dedicated to the best interests of the school.

A spokeswoman for Westfield State declined comment.

Dobelle’s troubles at the Massachusetts university are similar to his controversial tenure at UH from 2001 to 2004.

UH regents in 2004 unanimously voted to fire him amid charges of lavish spending, dishonesty, and wasting university resources.

At the time, Dobelle said he was a victim of a vendetta by the Republican Gov. Linda Lingle, and he fought back with lawyers and a Los Angeles public relations firm.

He threatened to sue for wrongful termination and challenged the regents to come up with a specific reason why they were terminating his contract. The regents paid off Dobelle, who resigned and received a severance package.

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