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UH leaders made Donovan their 'scapegoat,' his lawyer said

By Ferd Lewis

LAST UPDATED: 1:00 p.m. HST, Aug 23, 2012


Links to UH documents

July 16 letter from Donovan's lawyer

Aug. 11 UH Memo to Jim Donovan

Factfinders' report of Stevie Wonder Concert

Letter of support from legislators


  The attorney for former athletic director Jim Donovan charged that University of Hawaii officials used his client as a "scapegoat ... to deflect criticism from yourselves and people who reported to you."

Donovan was placed on paid indefinite administrative leave July 11 in the wake of the Stevie Wonder concert debacle. In a July 16 letter to UH President M.R.C. Greenwood and UH-Manoa Chancellor Tom Apple, Donovan's attorney David Simons charged that "the truth is, as you know, Mr. Donovan had little to do with the possible loss to the university of $200,000. Because this matter was embarrassing to both of you, you panicked and acted peremptorily to suspend Jim."

The letter, and other documents have been released to the Star-Advertiser under the state's open records law.

Weeks later, the UH and Donovan came to an agreement in which Donovan agreed not to sue the school and its officials in exchange for a new, yet-to-be-titled job. Donovan, whose athletic director salary was $240,000 on a contract that runs until March 23, returned to a reassigned role at UH-Manoa Aug. 12 under a three-year deal worth $211,200.

In his July 16 letter, Simons wrote, "by suspending Jim, you falsely made it appear that it was all his fault. Legally, we call putting someone in a 'false light' which is tortious conduct for which Mr. Donovan will seek compensatory and punitive damages from each of you."

Simons contended, "there was no operational reason, need or justification to publicly suspend Mr. Donovan. The obvious and only reason you publicly suspended him was to deflect criticism toward him and away from both of you and from the people who caused this problem, who are people who report to you, not to Mr. Donovan, including your general cpounsel's office and your fiscal office."

In addition, Simons charges, "you chose to scapegoat Mr. Donovan rather than appropriately investigating first. You breached UH policy. By not investigating first and, instead, publicly labeling Mr. Donovan as the culprit, you have denied him his constitutional right to due process and breached clear and established UH policy."


Letter to UH from Donovan's lawyer

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