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Former UH president Dobelle is under fire again for spending

By Andrea Estes & Scott Allen

Boston Globe

LAST UPDATED: 09:39 a.m. HST, Sep 26, 2013

Westfield State University trustees are trying to call a special meeting to consider suspending embattled president Evan Dobelle, who is facing intense criticism for his lavish spending and violations of university credit card policies -- including a new letter from state officials threatening to intervene in the school's finances.

Kevin R. Queenin, the trustee board secretary, has told others that he has four of the six votes he needs to call the meeting -- and perhaps suspend Dobelle, a former University of Hawaii president who resigned after questions were raised about his spending of UH Foundation money, with pay until various investigations are done. Numerous school officials say that the controversy surrounding Dobelle's use of university credit cards for travel, luxury hotels, and personal expenses is creating chaos on campus.

But Dobelle, who has retained a prominent lawyer and a public relations consultant, is going on the offensive, portraying himself as a victim of what he considers a vengeful board chairman, Jack Flynn. Dobelle argues Flynn is trying to derail his attempts to elevate the stature of Westfield State.

"This whole situation is being driven by Mr. Flynn, who is trying to have a revolution at the school," said George Regan, Dobelle's new spokesman.

"We really believe Mr. Flynn's grand scheme is to make the school into a State Police diploma mill. He's the problem. He's calling for secret meetings and is using university funds to hire an accounting firm to investigate -- without ever getting approval from anyone else on the board," Regan said.

Dobelle has charged that the investigation into his spending habits was illegal from the start because the accountant who analyzed his credit card records was hired by Flynn and two other trustees rather than the full board.

Dobelle even argues that he may be entitled to whistle-blower protection against retaliation by the board because he spoke out against its "illegal meetings."

"Those comments are untrue," replied Flynn, a top official with the State Police who has been wrestling with Dobelle's spending habits since someone anonymously gave Dobelle's expense records to university officials.

Flynn has said he hired the accountant from O'Connor & Drew without a board vote because the allegations were embarrassing and he was trying to be discreet.

"I'm extremely disappointed the conversation has reached this level," said Flynn.

Other Westfield State officials were sharper in their criticism of Dobelle, a self-described "change agent" who has had the $240,920 a year job since 2008.

Edward Marth, chairman of the university's fund-raising foundation, said the trustees should act "quickly, forthrightly, and severely."

Added Marth, "If I were in a position to do so, I would fire him." Marth said he was speaking for himself, not for the foundation board.

The state's higher education commissioner also increased pressure on Dobelle, challenging him in a letter to respond to various allegations, including a Boston Globe account of a 2013 fund-raising trip to San Francisco in which Dobelle gave trustees the impression he had proposed $500,000 in grants at seven Bay-area foundations when, in reality, Dobelle merely sent a staffer inside their offices to drop off information packets.

Commissioner Richard M. Freeland also called on Dobelle to respond to the findings of the O'Connor & Drew accountant -- who cited numerous violations of university policy forbidding the use of university credit cards for personal expenses -- and a letter from the state inspector general last week that accused Dobelle of spending public resources "indiscriminately."

"We are formally requesting you address the findings" by Oct. 3, wrote Freeland. "If you choose not to, we will have no choice but to assume that these very serious findings are true and proceed accordingly," noting that he has already begun a review of the university's state funding.

Freeland suggested the state may be forced to take control of the spending of state funds earmarked for the school.

In a separate letter, Freeland chided Westfield State trustees for not taking action on their own. Until now, several trustees have defended Dobelle as a visionary leader who needed to spend money in his quest to improve the school. Some have echoed Dobelle's assertion that the O'Connor & Drew review of Dobelle's expenses was invalid because the full board never approved it.

"Serious issues involving the stewardship of public funding and public trust have been raised, and silence and inaction are not appropriate responses," Freeland wrote.

The public acrimony between Dobelle and Westfield State trustees is strikingly similar to the end of Dobelle's time as president of the University of Hawaii where the board of regents unanimously voted to fire him in 2004 amid charges of lavish spending, dishonesty, and wasting university resources.

"We have come to the realization that the president no longer has our trust," said University of Hawaii Board of Regents chairwoman Patricia Lee in revealing the decision. Minutes of the meeting where they decided to fire him reveal that others questioned Dobelle's honesty, integrity, and competence and one said he "could not take another year of the president's lies and deceptions."

But Dobelle -- arguing that he was a victim of a vendetta by the Republican governor he had opposed -- 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 10-year contract. The regents balked and paid off Dobelle instead. Dobelle boasted to the Globe that he walked away with $3.8 million, not including the $1 million the university paid to his lawyers and $100,000 for his publicist.

Dobelle stressed that he left with no finding of wrongdoing on his part and an understanding that politicians find bold leadership threatening. "I'm a change agent," he told the Globe in August. "You know you're going to get hit."

Nine years later, the ill will lingers in Hawaii -- and the allegations against Dobelle sound familiar. Hawaii Senate president Donna Mercado Kim, one of Dobelle's harshest critics at the time, recalled that he spent huge amounts of money, but didn't successfully raise money during his two years as president.

"He'd say, 'You have to wine and dine these people,' " said Kim, referring to potential contributors. "But he didn't raise anything for Hawaii."

Freeland leveled the same charge against Dobelle last week, noting that he spends far more on expenses than other public university presidents, but fails to deliver on fund-raising. Westfield State is the only branch of the state university system that saw fund-raising decline between 2007 and 2012, according to state records, a period in which many others have seen a doubling of gifts.

"Fund-raising was dead last by a lot in the past two years," said Freeland, "and has been one of the lowest two consistently over the past five years. A lot of these expenditures" by Dobelle "are being made in the service of raising money for Westfield. Yet, other presidents around the system are raising more money without these kinds of expenditures."

But Dobelle's spokesman dismissed Freeland's letter to Dobelle, calling it little more than a "press release written by attorneys." Regan also accused Freeland of piling on Dobelle now that he is taking public criticism, saying, "This is becoming a vendetta."

However, Dobelle's supporters rejected published reports that he is threatening to file a whistle-blower lawsuit charging that he is a victim of illegal retaliation by the trustees. Instead, they said he is exploring his legal options with his attorney, Ross Garber of Hartford, who has represented two governors in impeachment proceedings.

And Regan said the spotlight should really shine on Flynn, charging that he has aggressively pursued Dobelle even though Dobelle did nothing wrong.

"Mr. Flynn is trying to have a power coup," said Regan.

Sept. 25 Letter to Westfield State University President Evan Dobelle, from Mass. Department of Higher Educa... by Greg Saulmon

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holumuahawaii wrote:
Arguing that the boss is wrong, the boss is going in the wrong direction, has never been much of a winning argument in a dispute over whether one ought to be continued in employment. Mr. Dobelle's incredibly narcissistic ego gets him in trouble wherever he goes.
on September 26,2013 | 07:40AM
allie wrote:
Dobelle is a classic confidence man. He took the UH for millions and laughed his way to the bank. He looks for poorly governed, weak institutions to steal from and then hires lawyers to get his way. he has done this throughout his bad career. Thank uncle Dan for hiring this creep.
on September 26,2013 | 08:10AM
Allie, for the most part your analysis seems in line with normal rational thinking, however, was is "Uncle Dan" who hired him? I would rather doubt it. I would imagine it would take the board of trustees for UH responsible for making the hiring decision.
on September 26,2013 | 10:59AM
allie wrote:
True..but they were pressured by Dan. Favor to the Democratic Party's fund raising. Profs know all about it
on September 26,2013 | 12:24PM
foursun wrote:
This kind of corruption is absolutely sickening. Dobelle is largely responsible for lowering the admissions/academic standards which opened the door for admissions of high numbers of clearly unqualified "students" who would not be accepted in any other mid major college. Hawaii appears to lowered itself down the road of rampant corruption and sinking to the disgusting low levels to be grouped among the most shamefully corrupt places such as North Dakota http://usatoday30.usatoday.com/news/nation/2008-12-10-corruptstates_N.htm
on September 26,2013 | 02:18PM
Hilofrank wrote:
No, it wasn't "Dan." It was gentle Ben. He pressured the Regents and Regent Lau, shortly after her term acknowledged that Ben called the Regents and told them to hire Dobelle and Cayetano even said that Dobelle could be our State's next Governor. It was a Bro-mance, that still blooms today. Dan had less to do with it. And if anyone wants a laugh, read Dobelle's contract with UH. Even Legalzoom.com could have drafted a better contract to protect us taxpayers. But Ben told the Regents to hire Dobelle and as all good Democrats, they did, despite the elementary school type contract.
on September 26,2013 | 02:36PM
Sunny wrote:
Master Spin Doctor Dobelle! Where will he go next?
on September 26,2013 | 07:42AM
iwanaknow wrote:
Don't worry, he'll never end up in jail but land on his feet with alot of kala in his pockets.
on September 26,2013 | 09:32AM
allie wrote:
on September 26,2013 | 09:37AM
allie wrote:
kalani high?
on September 26,2013 | 12:25PM
foursun wrote:
all-lies what is this obsession you have for Kalani High? This school has a higher percentage of graduates over the past 5 years that went on to successfully complete college than all but 1 school in North Dakota where you CLAIM to be from.
on September 26,2013 | 02:31PM
false wrote:
Actually it is rumored that he is headed for North Dakota.
on September 26,2013 | 02:44PM
Hilofrank wrote:
United State Senate.
on September 26,2013 | 02:37PM
loquaciousone wrote:
That's what they get for not doing due diligence in investigating the problems he had at UH. Better them than us.
on September 26,2013 | 07:55AM
Nevadan wrote:
They paid Dobelle $240,920, which is much less than UH paid him. UH even paid a librarian more than Westfield paid their president, thanks to Tom Apple's cronyism. There is something rotten in the UH administration and the BOR.
on September 26,2013 | 11:36AM
mahaloha wrote:
Good for Westfield State University ........ they did their due diligence and saw what he did to the taxpayers of Hawaii at the University of Hawaii ........ the question is why did they hire him ....... they knew what he did to Hawaii ............. WHT ARE THEY CRYING NOW? THEY KNEW HE WOULD SPEND THE MONEY UNETHICALLY ...... it's sad to see that people don't learn from history and now its repeating itself again ....... just at another University ....... I wish the next school good luck when they hire Dobelle and know there will be another university that will hire him ..... that's how business is conducted at this level.
on September 26,2013 | 07:55AM
allie wrote:
Dobelel told them Lingle fired him and that is was all a political problem. He spun his shibai and no one checked it out
on September 26,2013 | 08:11AM
Maneki_Neko wrote:
Uh, the guy doesn't work here anymore. Doesn't live here. Why does anyone care what happens to him?
on September 26,2013 | 08:01AM
fairgame947 wrote:
Some, including myself, find it a bit interesting. Obviously, you read the article. I think WSU should fire his sorry a**.
on September 26,2013 | 08:10AM
PMINZ wrote:
Dobelle news should be Back Page News not Up front like a Headliner.
on September 26,2013 | 08:19AM
Maneki_Neko wrote:
Yeah...why do we follow this loser around like it means anything to Hawaii?
on September 26,2013 | 11:43AM
Hilofrank wrote:
Because his lack of leadership, his slash and burn administrative tactics, still resonate at UH even today. Hawaii Community College in Hilo was next on the UH Community College for an overhaul. Dobelle nearly doubled the salary of the administrator in charge of the Community College renovations, changed her title and stopped any plans for renovating the college and moved the money elsewhere in his administrative budget. So to this day, Hawaii Community College runs from portable classrooms and quanset huts. After Maui Community College got that brilliant overhaul, Hawaii Community College was next. But thanks to Dobelle, it was derailed and still suffers to get its renovation plans approved.
on September 26,2013 | 02:41PM
al_kiqaeda wrote:
I'm hoping it serves the purpose of embarrassing the UH BOR in public at the job they do in recruiting.
on September 26,2013 | 08:32AM
allie wrote:
BOR was simply following orders from Dan hon. Get your facts straight.
on September 26,2013 | 09:38AM
Orders or recommendation?
on September 26,2013 | 11:03AM
allie wrote:
one and the same hon..when it came from Dan. Even Dobelle was widely quoted as saying that. Dan was a mixed blessing. He did much good but he perpetuated a lot of tyranny and fear. He hurt Hawaii badly
on September 26,2013 | 12:27PM
foursun wrote:
well all-lies corruption would clearly be something that is familiar to you since you claim to be from the state found to be THE MOST CORRUPT. http://usatoday30.usatoday.com/news/nation/2008-12-10-corruptstates_N.htm
on September 26,2013 | 02:34PM
Hilofrank wrote:
embarrass the UH BOR?! Seriously?! I doubt things could be bad enough to embarrass them. They are incompetence personified.
on September 26,2013 | 02:42PM
Um, he used to live here, he used to work here, he took millions from us here in Hawai'i, and you can't figure out why people are interested in what happens to this low-life. Let me spell it out to you: We, the people of Hawai'i, want to see this scum-sucker get his just deserts. Not that hard to understand now is it?
on September 26,2013 | 11:02AM
Maneki_Neko wrote:
Let it go, old son. You going to keep your little grudge all tied up inside you and wallow in the acid? It's over, he's gone. If karma works he'll get a just reward. And what's with the "we the people of Hawaii" - somebody died and appointed you ali'i? Get some mental health attention now, before we read about you doing bad things to good people.
on September 26,2013 | 11:45AM
Nevadan wrote:
The Neko mentality: Burn all history books. Got back to school and get an education, ejjut!
on September 26,2013 | 02:02PM
KekoaBradshaw wrote:
We care because when he was appointed UH President, the talk was that Dobelle would be the next US Senator from Hawaii when Dan Akaka retired. That's why Dobelle was given a 10-year contract when he was hired, and why he publically endorsed Maizie Hirono when she ran against Lingle in 2002. Most people were amazed that Dobelle, as President of the State university, would get involved in politics. At the time he was noted to have been active in the Clinton adminsitration. Much as I hate to admit it, this is one time when "allie" is correct---Dan Inouye, as "Mr. Drmocrat" in Hawaii, did have a major role in Dobelle's appointment as UH President.
on September 26,2013 | 12:00PM
frontman wrote:
Hawaii Board of Regents taught him well.......................lets hope he loses his job this time.
on September 26,2013 | 08:10AM
localguy wrote:
The man is a complete legend in his own mind. Prime example of a dysfunctional bureaucrat. "Agent of change? Hardly. More like the spawn of Satan with an OCD to spend, spend, spend. Clearly he has no clue what what leadership by example, ethical behavior, and selfless service are. Just what is in it for me, everyone else will kow tow to me at all times. I am the chosen one. Really? Man should be in prison with four walls, 3 hots, a cot, and a roommate you don't want to be with. The guy on the commercials waiting for you in jail if you get caught DWI. Let's hope Westfield State University can dump this garbage quickly and cheaply. What a loser.
on September 26,2013 | 08:11AM
PMINZ wrote:
Why are we in Hawaii going on and on about Dobelie ? Is the news in the rest of the world that lacking?
on September 26,2013 | 08:17AM
dlum003 wrote:
Dumbell just doesn't get it
on September 26,2013 | 08:26AM
loquaciousone wrote:
Actually Dumbell does get it. It's the guys who keep hiring him that doesn't it.
on September 26,2013 | 08:28AM
residenttaxpayer wrote:
Yawn....who cares?..he's not here anymore.....
on September 26,2013 | 08:31AM
nitpikker wrote:
BUT! OUR bor is still here! expect more bonehead hirings!
on September 26,2013 | 08:49AM
HawaiiCheeseBall wrote:
Can we stop the Dobelle stories already. The dude is long gone from Hawaii. He is pau, kaput, done, see you later alligator. He is Westfield State University's problem now, has been for a couple of years. The dude is a con man who is yesterday's story, stop putting his mug on the news already unless its a mug shot.
on September 26,2013 | 08:50AM
BigOpu wrote:
Agree. Tired of seeing his face in the news, let alone a story
on September 26,2013 | 11:22AM
McCully wrote:
Just cap his credit card at $1,000.
on September 26,2013 | 09:00AM
HonoluluHawaii wrote:
The reference to Dobelle as a UH president was included by the Star-Advertiser. This needs to me noted in the author credit, as I do not think those at the Boston Globe referenced UH.
on September 26,2013 | 09:16AM
rbshaka wrote:
Jew jewing everyone. This guy is a piece of work.
on September 26,2013 | 09:18AM
nodaddynotthebelt wrote:
This does not look good for the UH Board of Regents that hired him before he left. And it does not bode well for any questions regarding his tenure here at UH. This just underscore the need for transparency when it comes to selecting a university president.
on September 26,2013 | 09:27AM
jyorck wrote:
and he was the president of UH!!! :-(
on September 26,2013 | 10:05AM
lowtone123 wrote:
Can't say they didn't see this coming.
on September 26,2013 | 10:14AM
control wrote:
Sadly, much of the 1% fall in the Dobelle catagory - its all about them and self-enrichment and nothing about the actual job they were hired to do. Just another freebie slush fund to use up at the expense of others.
on September 26,2013 | 11:21AM
KekoaBradshaw wrote:
What does Dobelle's religion have to do with this? And using the phrase "jewing" is offensive.
on September 26,2013 | 12:14PM
Publicbraddah wrote:
White collar criminal deluxe!
on September 26,2013 | 12:37PM
xxNOTxx wrote:
Dobelle is the scum of the earth -- he needs to go to jail and given the job of picking up soap off the shower floor.
on September 26,2013 | 01:25PM
Hilofrank wrote:
To quote Forrest Gump, "Stupid is as stupid does." And the time and energy being devoted to this snake oil salesman is mind boggling.
on September 26,2013 | 02:32PM
false wrote:
Why is Dopebell news? I thought we 86th him. What a con man.
on September 26,2013 | 02:43PM
iwanaknow wrote:
This guy has golden ala's(sp).
on September 26,2013 | 03:25PM
buggee808 wrote:
One of the main problems with UH is that there are too many political hands that have an influence in the decisions being made at the school. When something like this where we fire someone and they threat to sue back, we buckle and pay them off instead of fighting because all the politicians will be dragged into the hearing and mud will start flying. They would rather payoff than be exposed. Good examples is this guy Dobelle, Frazer and Donovan.
on September 26,2013 | 04:22PM
engineersoldier wrote:
SA, why must you follow this scumbag? Report on something that's relevant, i.e,, how incompetent and bloated HECO is. Let's get relevant, SA!
on September 26,2013 | 05:00PM
engineersoldier wrote:
SA, when will you stop following this s___ bag, we have so many more relevant issues to deal with, such as our incompetent, inefficeent, bloated HECO?
on September 26,2013 | 05:22PM
Venus1 wrote:
Agree! Is S. A. the Honolulu Enquirer? Many issues deserve the 'Front Page'! Not Dobelle.
on September 26,2013 | 06:30PM
Papakolea wrote:
The sad but foreseeable outcome of this is that Dobelle will continue to bait his critics until they say defamatory things about him. Then he'll threaten to sue and they'll pay a settlement to make him go away. While he is despicable, you gotta admit he's good.
on September 26,2013 | 06:53PM
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