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Mass. inspector accuses Dobelle of improper spending, lying

By Craig Gima

LAST UPDATED: 3:46 p.m. HST, Jul 31, 2014

The Massachusetts state inspector issued a detailed report Thursday accusing former University of Hawaii President Evan Dobelle of improperly spending hundreds of thousands of dollars of Westfield State University foundation and university funds, and making false statements to the foundation board to justify his "improper actions and wasteful spending."

In addition to personal trips to San Francisco and international destinations, Dobelle's spending included payin $777 to have a portrait of himself painted and thousands of dollars for a Nikon camera, Apple laptop and two Kindles that were never turned over to the university.

Dobelle resigned from his $240,920-a-year job as president of the Massachusetts university in November after six years as its leader and has sued the school and state officials alleging that they conspired to destroy his reputation.

Dobelle's lawyer, Ross Garber, said his client has not had an opportunity to review the report. But Garber said in an email it is "time to stop the effort to tarnish" Dobelle's reputation and achievements.

The Massachusetts Attorney General has said that their office is also investigating Dobelle's spending and statements to the university justifying his spending.

The 57-page report said Dobelle's most intensive use of university credit cards for personal charges happened after he nearly maxed out his personal credit limits.

In 2008, Dobelle opened three personal credit card accounts and by December all three cards were at or near their credit limits. Five Dobelle credit cards reviewed by state inspector had a total balance due of more than $47,000.

The following month, Dobelle charged nearly $7,600 on his university credit card. Between Jan. 1, 2009 and Dec. 31, 2010, Dobelle made nearly $59,000 in personal charges on his university cards, the report said.

Dobelle had also maxed out a $66,700 home equity line of credit on his house in Pittsfield, Mass. The report said Dobelle opened the home equity credit line line in March 2009 and had drawn down all but $435 by July 2009.Dobelle self-identified $85,000 in personal charge and the state inspector found tens of thousands of dollars in additional personal purchases and that he collected thousands of dollars worth of airline and hotel points and miles in his personal rewards accounts from university travel.

Over six years, Dobelle self-identified $85,000 in personal charges on his university credit cards. The state inspector found tens of thousands of dollars in additional personal purchases and found that Dobelle collected thousands of dollars worth of airline and hotel points and miles in his personal rewards accounts from university travel.

The report said Dobelle's university travel earned him more than 1.6 milion Hilton HHonors points and at least 706,707 Hyatt Gold Passport points, which he redeemed for personal use, rather than saving the university on travel expenses.

Use of the university's credit card also allowed Dobelle to avoid paying "significant interest and finance charges on his personal credit cards, amounting to "free loans," the report said. The inspector said Dobelle's interest payments on five personal credit cards amounted to an average of $800 a month.

The report said Dobelle "engaged in improper and irresponsible conduct" in connection with a university trip to Cuba in 2013, "putting WSU's reputation and standing at risk." The state inspector said Dobelle invited people who were not eligible to travel to Cuba under U.S. Treasure Department's academic exemption and instructed some of the ineligible travelers, including family members, to make the false statements that they were adjunct faculty and assistant coaches.

"Dobelle engaged in similar spending practices, such as frequent travel to San Francisco and reporting both personal expenses and social meetings as having a business purpose, at his prior positions as president of the University of Hawaii and president of the New England Board of Higher Education," the state inspector said.

Dobelle was allowed to resign as president of the UH system in 2004 after the Board of Regents unanimously voted to fire him amid charges of lavish spending, dishonesty and wasting university resource's.

Dobelle said he was a victim of a vendetta by then-Gov. Linda Lingle, and he fought back with lawyers and a Los Angeles public relations firm.

He threatened to sue for wrongful termination and UH negotiated a settlement that included a $1.3 million payment to Dobelle and his attorneys to buy out the remainder of his contract.


The Associated Press contributed to this story.

Review of Spending Practices by Former Westfield State University President Evan Dobelle

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