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Donovan tells panel he was not involved with wiring $200,000

By Star-Advertiser staff

LAST UPDATED: 8:07 p.m. HST, Sep 24, 2012

Former University of Hawaii Athletic Director Jim Donovan blamed “a failure of management” for the Stevie Wonder debacle that led to today’s hearing by a state Senate panel.

Donovan said he was not aware that the university had wired $200,000 to an out-of-state bank account to secure the concert because he was out of town at an athletic director’s conference.

"The fact that we wired the money to a company that we didn’t have a contract with ... just blows my mind," he said.

Donovan told the state Senate Special Committee on Accountability that the university failed in three areas: disbursing, legal counsel and athletics.

The former athletic director faced the panel for more than an hour after UH President M.R.C. Greenwood underwent a two-hour grilling over the ill-fated concert and its aftermath.

In July, Donovan was placed on paid leave while an outside law firm investigated the loss of the $200,000.

In August, Donovan was cleared of any wrongdoing in the debacle but was re-assigned to a new marketing role with no title in the UH-Manoa chancellor's office in a three-year deal that pays him more than $200,000 annually.

He told the Senate panel today that his new title is director of external affairs and community relations.

Donovan gave his side of story regarding the lost $200,000 that was intended to secure Wonder for an August concert to benefit UH athletics.

He said the UH fiscal office missed a deadline to cut a check, so a decision was made to wire the money. Wiring the money, Donovan said, would have raised a red flag for him.

He described a wire transfer as similar to “handing a briefcase full of cash” to someone. Donovan also noted that if the bank account was really an escrow account, the university would have had to give its approval before any money was removed from the account. That did not happen.

“I wasn’t aware of it (the wire transfer). I wasn’t brought into the loop,” he said.

Donovan said he was also unaware that there was no contract when the money was wired. He said there was no communication between the Office of the General Counsel and fiscal office.

Donovan said that former Board of Regents Chairman Howard Karr spoke to him about UH coaches and that there was "a lot of (regents) involvement in Coach McMackin's situation."

Donovan said he was told  by the BOR to offer a reduced buyout for football coach Greg McMackin to forego the fifth and final year of his contract,  and that if McMackin did not accept it McMackin would be investigated by the university. McMackin left UH in December, 2011, with $600,000 instead of the $1.1 million his contract guaranteed for the 2012 season.



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