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Dobelle exits school's top post

UH's former president retires from Westfield following controversy over his spending

By Associated Press & Star-Advertiser staff


BOSTON » Westfield State University President Evan Dobelle, who filed a federal lawsuit against the school after being suspended last month by trustees, announced his retirement Friday.

Dobelle, who resigned as University of Hawaii's president nearly a decade ago, informed the Westfield board of trustees in a letter that he would retire, effective immediately. He had been at odds with trustees over criticism that he charged personal expenses on university credit cards and spent lavishly on foreign travel.

In the letter, released by a Boston-based public relations firm hired by Dobelle, he did not specifically refer to the controversy over his spending, but pegged his decision to retire on actions by the university that he said violated terms of his contract.

"Included among these actions is the so-called ‘administrative leave' on which I am currently placed, which is not permitted by my contract and has the effect of making it impossible for me to do my job," Dobelle wrote.

In the letter he noted that his contract required him to give a longer period of notice before retiring, but said that under the circumstances he believed his immediate retirement "would be welcomed" and would expedite the release of state funds for a new academic building at the school.

A statement from Regan Communications said Dobelle would not be available for further comment Friday.

Dobelle's attorney, Ross Garber, said he did not want to comment beyond the contents of the letter.

(Dobelle's troubles at Westfield are similar to his controversial tenure at UH from 2001 to 2004. UH regents unanimously voted to fire him in 2004 amid charges of lavish spending, dishonesty and wasting university resources. Dobelle said he was a victim of a vendetta by then-Gov. Linda Lingle and fought back with lawyers, threatening to sue UH for wrongful termination. The regents reached a settlement and Dobelle resigned.)

Shortly after his suspension by Westfield trustees last month, Dobelle, 68, filed a federal lawsuit against the university trustees and state Higher Education Commissioner Richard Freeland, in which he alleged that trustees had conspired to damage his reputation and violate his rights.

The lawsuit portrayed Dobelle as victim of a "guerrilla war for control of the University," and alleged breach of contract, defamation and civil conspiracy among other things.

Freeland, in a statement, said he believed Dobelle's decision to retire was in the school's best interest.

"I look forward to working with new leadership to advance the mission of teaching and learning at the University," said Freeland.

Auditors hired by trustees reported in August that Dobelle and other top officials violated school policy by charging personal expenses to school credit cards. Dobelle has said he was following past practice and fully reimbursed Westfield for the personal charges.

Dobelle has also responded to criticism that he spent on luxury hotels and restaurants during overseas trips, saying his spending was "strategically planned" and brought a significant return on investment for the school.

A one-time mayor of Pittsfield, Mass., Dobelle served as president of several institutions, including UH and City College of San Francisco, before becoming president of Westfield in 2007.

In his letter Dobelle thanked faculty, students, alumni and others who had supported him. He said he had concluded that retirement was the only way for the university to move beyond the "unnecessary and unfortunate distractions" and "gratuitous media attention" of recent months.

Elizabeth Preston, the school's vice president for academic affairs, was named acting president following Dobelle's suspension in October.

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miss_laulau wrote:
I wonder how long this retirement will last before he goes on to scam another school. Who would be stupid enough to hire him?
on November 9,2013 | 03:41AM
palani wrote:
I hear that Dobelle has applied to run a pre-school in North Dakota. His references are unimpeachable!
on November 9,2013 | 03:54AM
allie wrote:
Hey..he lacks any academic credentials!
on November 9,2013 | 06:49AM
palani wrote:
Too much in the way of incestuous relationships in the academic world. Bad Apples (Tom?) are passed around from one institution to another, all on the basis of peer recommendations..
on November 9,2013 | 09:00AM
Imagen wrote:
Exactly my opine.
on November 12,2013 | 10:15AM
LittleEarl_01 wrote:
The past has finally caught up with Dobelle. I can't help but wonder however if Westfield State University and its trustees gave him a sweetheart deal like the UH and its trustees, i.e. Greenfield.
on November 9,2013 | 04:23AM
fstop wrote:
I hear that UH is looking for a new president...
on November 9,2013 | 05:57AM
Ipo_Mom wrote:
I hope that anyone who hires does his or her homework. It's not enough to look at references. People or organizations who provide less than adequate references or give less than positive responses in a phone reference interview are concerned about becoming a target of a lawsuit. Also, if a person has a gleaming reference, they should be hired by someone else, and you don't have to deal with them anymore.... Common ploy, unfortunately, and someone else is stuck with a headache.
on November 9,2013 | 06:38AM
allie wrote:
true..references mean virtually nothing any more
on November 9,2013 | 06:50AM
2_centz wrote:
This comment has been deleted.
on November 9,2013 | 07:10AM
Anonymous wrote:
We know exactly how much Greenwood brought in: zero
on November 9,2013 | 07:27AM
mitt_grund wrote:
One thing that SA should do is not giving any more space and paper to recognizing these persons who are abject failures. They should be just dropped from the public stage. Goes for past governors who were "big zeros", past librarians who-would-be-governor, and past arrogant mayors who-would-be guv.
on November 9,2013 | 07:49AM
Imagen wrote:
And especially no more photo ops for the current Mayor of Honolulu. I fear that he has had much too much free publicity for doing exactly the opposite.
on November 12,2013 | 10:17AM
huponews wrote:
He does this for a living.....just unbelievable how he covers all the angles to protect himself. What goes a round..comes around, he get his someday.... so sad!!
on November 9,2013 | 09:57AM
Olopala wrote:
Now that Lingle is no longer Governor and the post is once again vacant, maybe he has the chutzpah to apply for his old job back.
on November 9,2013 | 11:08AM
iwanaknow wrote:
A snake
on November 9,2013 | 08:13PM
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