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Senate panel says costs of Wonder blunder top $1 million

By Ferd Lewis

LAST UPDATED: 07:25 p.m. HST, Oct 02, 2012

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The state Senate panel investigating the University of Hawaii's ill-fated Stevie Wonder concert says the total cost of the debacle has topped $1.3 million.

The revelation began at the start of the second meeting of the state Senate Special Committee on Accountability this afternoon. Committee chairwoman Sen. Donna Mercado Kim began the meeting with heated questioning of Jeffrey S. Harris, attorney with the law firm Torkildson, Katz, Moore, Hetherington, Harris, which has been retained by the UH administration to help them deal with the aftermath of the failed concert.

Kim complained to Harris that the UH did not answer the panel's query for a breakdown of the costs associated with the concert. Kim said that the panel came up with its own estimate of $1,135,200, including $75,000 to former state attorney general Mark Bennett who was also retained to help the UH.

After the last hearing the committee asked for a breakdown and total of the costs incurred in the failed Wonder concert and its aftermath.

Sen. Sam Slom labeled Harris' reply as "disingenuous" and scolded him, saying, "everybody in the room and watching (on TV) understood" what the committee wanted.

Slom quipped, "it shows that Shakespeare was right, first we kill the lawyers."

That discussion was followed by a drawn-out, sometimes-heated exchange between panel members and Harris on why the UH redacted names from the external investigation by Cades Schutte on the canceled concert. Harris insisted that the UH redacted names over concerns on privacy issues, while senators countered that the redactions violated state open-government laws.

Harris, clearly frustrated with the line of questioning, finally told the panel that they have the unredacted report so "why don't you release 'em?"

Kim informed him that the panel was initially asked by the UH to keep the unredacted report confidential, so now wants to know the UH's opinion on the legal basis for the redactions.

The Wonder concert saga began in June when university officials announced that the pop star had agreed to an Aug. 18 performance to benefit the UH athletics department. Ticket sales were well under way by July 10 when then-UH athletic director Jim Donovan announced that there would be no concert after all because Wonder and his representatives had not authorized the event. About 6,000 ticket holders had to be refunded.

The next day, UH-Manoa Chancellor Tom Apple announced that Donovan and Stan Sheriff Center manager Rich Sheriff were placed on indefinite paid administrative leave while an investigation of the canceled Stevie Wonder concert was conducted. UH officials also explained they had paid $200,000 to a Florida company that purported to be authorized to book the star. Wonder's representatives later contacted UH officials to say they had not authorized the concert or received any payment. Greenwood acknowledged that the university was apparently a victim of fraud.

In August, Sheriff was reinstated and Donovan, whose athletic director s contract was to expire in March, was re-assigned to a new, vaguely defined marketing role in the UH-Manoa chancellor's office in a three-year deal that pays him more than $200,000 annually. Documents released to the Star-Advertiser under the state's open records law showed that the UH agreed to the deal in return for Donovan agreeing not to sue the school.

Sheriff was the second witness today. Kim asked him "how many drafts (of the contract) did the attorneys make before they came up with the final draft?" Sheriff replied: "seven."

KIm responded, "So we had seven opportunities (to cancel the concert)?"

Sheriff said he was approached about the prospect of holding a concert by local promoter Bob Peyton, who "told me as an alum and a fan of athletics that he wanted to do something good."

Kim said Peyton was asked to appear and responded that he is hospitalized.

Sheriff also said Donovan's reassignment in the wake of the Wonder blunder, "came as a complete surprise to me."

"To me nobody should have been put on leave," he said.

Sheriff was followed on the hot seat by Apple, in his first appearance before state legislators since being hired early this summer.

Apple said he first heard of the concert on July 9, "when we had contact from (Wonder's representatives) Creative Artists Agency, more or less a cease and desist (request)."

Kim told Apple that UH President M.R.C. Greenwood informed the panel last week that the UH contacted HPD immediately after learning of the alleged fraud. But Kim said HPD has since told the panel that "there was no report made. They were never contacted. They were never in discussion with the university."

Under questioning by Kim, Apple said,"I know the FBI was contacted; I don't know about HPD."

Apple insisted that the reassignment of Donovan actually saved the UH money because his new annual salary, $211,000, is lower than what peer institutions would pay, and that the position was going to be filled anyway.

Apple also said not a single person from athletics has told him that they wanted Donovan to return as athletic director.

After Apple's testimony, the panel questioned regent vice chairmen James Lee and Carl Carlson and regent Coralie Matayoshi about the board's involvement in the Donovan reassignment and their lack of openness to the public.

Today's session, which follows a six-hour session on Sept. 24, began at about 1 p.m. in room 211 of the state Capitol. It is being shown live of ‘Olelo, channel 52, and streamed on the Star-Advertiser website, staradvertiser.com/uh-state-senate-hearing

Five people appeared before the committee last week in a six-hour session and former Manoa Chancellor Virginia Hinshaw, who is out of town, submitted written testimony.


Star-Advertiser reporter Mary Vorsino contributed to this report.

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gsc wrote:
Somebody in Manoa has a lot of money to spend !!!!!!!!!!!! I just wonder who's money they are spending like nothing !!!!!!!!!!!!!
on October 2,2012 | 09:31AM
kispest wrote:
They are copying obama.
on October 2,2012 | 10:11AM
jusmetwocents wrote:
Ok... The panel has now met twice with the UH people. Are we any closer to finding out what actually happened or who is responsible? If not, will we ever know or is this just a process to officially sweep this mess under a larger rug?
on October 2,2012 | 02:01PM
allie wrote:
UH disaster. No one looks good int his mess
on October 2,2012 | 03:14PM
frontman wrote:
Fire them all...........LIARS to the MAX
on October 2,2012 | 05:05PM
mitt_grund wrote:
Obviously, the taxpayers who subsidized all their vainglorious stupidity. It is clear that the BOR has exercised no true stewardship over the UH president and the UH system. They have simply rubber stamped MRC's actions (or inaction) and declared her wonder woman. Fire them all. Neil, sick the AG on these idiots. They are all incompetents wasting taxpayers' money.
on October 2,2012 | 05:50PM
star08 wrote:
Who knows? Peyton knows.
on October 2,2012 | 09:18PM
xxNOTxx wrote:
I "Wonder" what went wrong LOL. Bunch of so called high paid idiots just keep on spending more of our tax monies on lawyers, accountants, etc.. in order to cover their butts and to direct the blame away from themselves. What a total waste of our money that could have been directed in so many other positive ways.
on October 2,2012 | 09:48AM
Bdpapa wrote:
Too much time and money for this. Cut your losses and move on.
on October 2,2012 | 09:59AM
soundofreason wrote:
People need to be held accountable, ALL those involved, or it will just happen again.
on October 2,2012 | 06:37PM
allie wrote:
true..this is the amateur hour. Nobody I know would not have seen the obvious red flags all over this phony concert. One scam after another. Nobody looks good in this scandal and Senator Kim is right to blow the whistle on the expensive incompetence at the UH. We students are suffering!
on October 2,2012 | 10:00AM
tiki886 wrote:
Sort of like Obama's foreign policies falling apart before our very eyes with our Ambassador being murdered, our enemies who don't respect us and are not afraid of us, Eric Holder and his office continually hiding his involvement and Obama's involvement with so many Mexican citizens being murdered with American weapons that were put in the hands of the cartels by the Obama Administration and our national economy in the tank for four years. Rising gas and food prices. More people on the government dole than anytime in history!

This is what you get when you have Democrats, Liberals and Commies in charge of everything. And what does Obama do? He goes golfing, goes campaigning in Las Vegas, visits with Beyonce and JayZ and the ladies of the View and other talk shows rather than meeting with our allies and Heads of State in a time of crisis and chaos.

Makes me 'Wonder' if he is still smokin dope and snortin coke with his "Choom Gang" at Punahou.

on October 2,2012 | 03:13PM
CriticalReader wrote:
This should prove to UHAD how effective it would be to televise football for free. Some in this State are fascinated. Some not so much. BUT, people will be tuning in to watch. Especially because it's free TV. I bet more people watch these hearings that watched the last UH ppv game (maybe event the last few ppv games in the aggregate).
on October 2,2012 | 10:26AM
Wazdat wrote:
on October 2,2012 | 10:30AM
loquaciousone wrote:
I do. Is Stevie still coming?
on October 2,2012 | 12:06PM
Bean808 wrote:
I think he might consider 1.3 million. LOL
on October 2,2012 | 03:12PM
rhs763 wrote:
Harris is stonewalling!
on October 2,2012 | 01:20PM
islandsun wrote:
Hearings are neer going to be valid unless Crombie, Say and Tsujsui testify about their roles.
on October 2,2012 | 01:25PM
Bean808 wrote:
Now that would be interesting. What about Takai. I thought I saw something in the paper about him after Donavan got the hook.
on October 2,2012 | 03:15PM
csdhawaii wrote:
Yup, but that ain't gonna happen. It's not part of Kim's plan.
on October 2,2012 | 03:27PM
kuewa wrote:
All involved, including Greenwood, should be sanctioned or fired and fined for the costs to the taxpayer.Then Frank DeLima needs to write a song about the Board of Regents.
on October 2,2012 | 02:13PM
Pacej001 wrote:
Maybe Frank should be ON the Board of Regents.
on October 2,2012 | 02:21PM
Graham wrote:
With Bumatai, Augie T, Moe, Curly and Larry...
on October 2,2012 | 03:41PM
Giligan wrote:
No lawyers please.
on October 3,2012 | 05:08AM
Allenk wrote:
What about the other minor minions that toil away in the accounting and finance offices? Do they have civil service immunity?
on October 2,2012 | 07:45PM
stingray65 wrote:
I have the feeling that most of them are Democrats!! Spending all that money that can help kids, and others. We can fix some roads, watermain, add some more buses. They should hold someone responsible for all that expenses!! Why hire lawyers?
on October 2,2012 | 02:18PM
pukahead wrote:
I agree, #1 Kill the Lawyers, Who needs them......... Bunch of Losers!!!!!!
on October 2,2012 | 02:26PM
all_fed_up wrote:
This money should be taken out of UH's administrative salaries. Not one penny of student tuition should be used to cover the @sses of these idiots.
on October 2,2012 | 02:52PM
allie wrote:
true..but you can bet all the CYA means someone really knows what happened but is not saying
on October 2,2012 | 03:15PM
CloudForest wrote:
100% democrats with out even checking on it !! Prove me wrong someone please.
on October 2,2012 | 03:14PM
hon2255 wrote:
Frank Fasi, where are you when we need you , we miss you.
on October 2,2012 | 03:15PM
HanamauluBoy wrote:
Seriously...$680,000 worth of "major" repairs under way at the UH president's unoccupied mansion...$1.3 million to top the Wonder blunder decbacle? Heads need to start rolling at UH. BTW...anyone know where my daughters can apply for "free tuition" since they have all this money that they can throw away?
on October 2,2012 | 03:19PM
csdhawaii wrote:
Told ya Donovan was trying to get a 5-year Vice Chancellor deal. By the time his attorney wrote that letter, he had taken being put back into his old AD position off the table and was demanding a buyout of his contract in addition to the VC deal. Kim is stupid to say they didn't know about that (although I suspect Donovan conveniently left that out when he was telling Kim what he wanted to be able to testify in their pre-hearing meetings) because KHNL ran a story on it. Don't know why UH didn't give that letter to the panel. I would like to hear someone ask Apple who's idea it was to put Rockne in as interim AD.
on October 2,2012 | 03:25PM
islandsun wrote:
Like JD always says....... he loves UH.
on October 2,2012 | 04:16PM
Giligan wrote:
Donovan's lawyer was the most effective and cheapest at $30000, and he got us to pay it! Next time, UH hire him!
on October 3,2012 | 05:11AM
oceansoul47 wrote:
How much more money will be spend before they start firing some very unqualified UH administration? The 1.3 million should have been used on real educational needs. The nation must really look a the University of Hawaii as a joke and our football team isn't helping.
on October 2,2012 | 03:35PM
csdhawaii wrote:
I don't think the nation really cares. Haven't really seen anything about this in the national news except for when the SW concert was canceled.
on October 2,2012 | 03:42PM
tiki886 wrote:
It's not the "Feds" money. The money the Feds confiscate from us in Hawaii is not supporting this fiasco. It is Hawaii Residents that are paying for this fiasco.
on October 2,2012 | 05:03PM
bluemountain wrote:
UH Manoa (Athletics) is doomed. Apple is another Frazier! No one will succeed as AD with coaches being given full reign. There will be no one to control them (coaches)...especially when they use the excuse of..."for the student athletes..." to get what THEY want!
on October 2,2012 | 03:37PM
BTO wrote:
And they keep on playing the UH glee club animal house commercial, "I keep closing my eyes and taking my time ah huh, ah huh!! No need for the UH drama team here, we got live actors.
on October 2,2012 | 05:21PM
Hilofrank wrote:
Someone explain to me how Sheriff got a free pass in all of this mess.
on October 2,2012 | 04:01PM
hon2255 wrote:
Down Goes Frazier , Down Goes Greenwood and BOR. ,our children suffer at the hands of these incompetent hires and appointees, burning up all our resources already stretched, that's why our students can't get the classes they need, not enought instructors, campus at Manoa poorly maintained , facilities in lower campus falling apart ie Klum Gym, this is unacceptable, Governor ,it's time you chopped some heads and let it Roll baby Roll !!
on October 2,2012 | 04:13PM
GTCPA wrote:
Let's take a fast yes or no survey. Are the law firms Cades Shutte, etal & Torkildsen, etal's tied to the "Wonder Blunder"? Are those law firms charging exorbitant fees to UH which, in turn, pays for bonuses and raises to the law firms' partners and employees, who then sends their kids' to mainland colleges instead of UH? Will the Stevie Wonder debacle's final cost to Hawaii taxpayers be an amount equal to the rail project? And the last question, shall we, the people, get rid of the UH president, chancellor, Sheriff arena director and Board of Regents as soon as possible?
on October 2,2012 | 04:11PM
lowtone123 wrote:
on October 2,2012 | 04:16PM
kaiakea wrote:
Yes, ok, 1 million is a lot of money. But why isn't the senate going after the rail fiasco? Surely the billions there are worth an investigation. Or is it that too many senators stand to gain from rail?
on October 2,2012 | 04:24PM
tiki886 wrote:
Because the rail belongs in the C&C jurisdiction, not the State.
on October 2,2012 | 05:08PM
kaiakea wrote:
And you believe that the state does not stand to lose big money from the rail fiasco?
on October 2,2012 | 05:40PM
kennie1933 wrote:
Here's the really scary part in my opinion. Let's say that after all this money is spent on the hearings, lawyers, etc. that ultimately we DO get all the answers we want and that someone IS found to be at fault. Well....SO WHAT? We have answers, we have a person to blame, AND we are out over a million dollars? And if we do have someone to blame, do we need to buy out his/her contract and spend MORE money? This is like finding a nail in the car tire and resolving the problem by buying a whole new car!
on October 2,2012 | 05:50PM
csdhawaii wrote:
Why don't they just call General Counsel in to testify? They (she) keeps coming up over and over. Ask them the questions instead of asking the other witnesses why GC did this or that. Sheesh.
on October 2,2012 | 05:53PM
64hoo wrote:
thats the problem with UH because our university is run by regents most other universitys have a dean and no board of regents. thats what make us a failure sometimes. get rid of the board of regents and we can save a heck of alot of tax money
on October 2,2012 | 06:56PM
csdhawaii wrote:
Save tax money? How? The BOR is not paid.
on October 2,2012 | 07:09PM
64hoo wrote:
simple they are voted in by the dems who run the state and big daddy helps them so they get compensated for there job.
on October 2,2012 | 07:30PM
csdhawaii wrote:
You make no sense.
on October 2,2012 | 07:42PM
64hoo wrote:
sure i do they get free parking stalls at our expense while everybody else pays big money for there private parking stalls so they get compensated from our taxes. to park free for there private stalls, it makes alot of sense.
on October 2,2012 | 08:00PM
Allenk wrote:
Does the Dean have an advisory committee? Just in case he or she goes crazy and decides to hire lawyers. What ever happened to a balance of power? Is no one checking on the decisions being made in Manoa?
on October 2,2012 | 08:02PM
csdhawaii wrote:
Blah, this is sickening...the same lovefest for Coralie Matayoshi as there was for Jim Donovan. How come James Lee got grilled like he did and Coralie gets drooled over? Seems like a lot of the questions they grilled Lee with, would have been more appropriate for Coralie considering she's the BOR personnel committee.
on October 2,2012 | 06:59PM
Kaneohe5 wrote:
Jill Tokuda is always thanking the BOR. Why? For what? If they were doing their job we wouldn't be in this mess. Donna is way to smart for these BOR dumdums. How can the budget guy not know what's in the budget.? That's why Donna and Sam are laughing at these dumdums
on October 2,2012 | 07:32PM
LKK56 wrote:
Who spends $900,000 to find out why they made a $200,000 mistake? Give me a break. Move on before this becomes $2,000,000 spent to find out who made a $200,000 mistake. What more can we taxpayers ask - MOVE ON!!!!
on October 2,2012 | 07:56PM
GooglyMoogly wrote:
It seems to be the very definition of throwing good money after bad, but this needs to happen to prevent the next loss from being $500k, $1M? We as taxpayers have asked for accountability by the University for so long...THIS is the cost of accountability.
on October 2,2012 | 08:12PM
tiki886 wrote:
Now that the Senate accountability panel is over, did anyone catch that the $200,000 'Wonder" fee came out of an account that already has a minus balance of over $1 million dollars? Student tuition goes into the account and I forget what else but is this how you run a University by funneling cash from one account to another account with a negative balance to pay for a bogus concert?
on October 2,2012 | 08:54PM
bobbob wrote:
the student $50 activities fee goes into the account, as mentioned during the panel. Kim really reamed them on that account, since greenwood said that the fee wasn't paid for by upper campus tuitions.
on October 2,2012 | 09:05PM
Masami wrote:
This has gone on for 3 months now............how come the Governor hasn't said anything?
on October 2,2012 | 09:07PM
rferdun wrote:
Because the govenor is a coward. He knows that nothing he says will benifit him and more likely will draw fire. So he is keeping his head down and laying low.
on October 2,2012 | 09:55PM
star08 wrote:
Who knows? Peyton knows
on October 2,2012 | 09:17PM
pookiki wrote:
What I would like to know is why an attorney has to represent UH? If one were to look at hears conducted by the US House of Representatives or the US Senate, subpoenas are issued for people to testify about their direct knowledge of the events being investigated. If the person subpoenaed wants an attorney to be available for legal advice, it is on their own dime not the State's. In this investigation, UH has hired an attorney to represent them at the hearing which just escalates the cost of the original fiasco. Obviously, the attorney's role is to confuse and obfuscate. I would guess that Mr. Harris' hourly rate for attending hearings is in the neighborhood of $600.00/hour. Why are the State Senators allowing this additional expense is beyond me -- and every tax payer should be livid!.
on October 2,2012 | 11:16PM
pookiki wrote:
Second sentence should read: If one were to look at hearings .......
on October 2,2012 | 11:19PM
Papakolea wrote:
Here's a link to the timeline of the events. http://www.capitol.hawaii.gov/committeefiles/special/sca02/BriefingMaterials.pdf One thing is clear. This whole blunder started under Hinshaw's watch. She's the one who needs to be interviewed. Can't she spend some of her sabbatical pay to come back and answer questions? This points to a larger issue of carpet bagger administrators at UH. They have no skin in the game here. There are lots of highly qualified, highly educated local professionals who care about the university and can do the job. This is just a paycheck and a notch on the resume for the likes of Greenwood, Hinshaw and Apple.
on October 2,2012 | 11:35PM
pookiki wrote:
June 26: The UH wired $200,000 to an escrow account in Florida as a deposit. Who authorized the wire transfer?
on October 3,2012 | 12:31AM
pookiki wrote:
June 26: The UH wired $200,000 to an escrow account in Florida as a deposit. Has it been determined who authorized the wire transfer? And why was it sent without a contract being signed? This is certainly gross negligence and would certainly make one wonder whether I kick-back was involved.
on October 3,2012 | 12:29AM
Giligan wrote:
Slom is right, we could have cut our losses if the lawyers were not retained. Donna Kim is doing a good thing, but you have to add the cost of these hearings to the total.
on October 3,2012 | 05:04AM
CloudForest wrote:
Every City and/or State that the Democrats have been in control of for any length of time has collapsed under the weight of debt and lies and out right theft. This is one very small example of what the democrats can do for you!
on October 3,2012 | 11:37AM
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