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UH regents approve Donovan deal, but mum on Greenwood

  • Jamm Aquino
    University of Hawaii president M.R.C. Greenwood leaves her seat as former UH athletic director Jim Donovan prepares to speak to a Senate panel during a hearing on the cancelled Stevie Wonder concert on Monday

The University of Hawaii Board of Regents voted today to approve a legal settlement reached in August that gave former athletic director Jim Donovan a new $211,200-a-year marketing job in the UH Manoa Chancellor’s Office.

The approval came even after the regents heard details of a critical audit of the athletic department during Donovan’s tenure over the last three years.

The audit revealed lax fiscal controls and policies for the distribution of money and the collection of donations while the department’s deficit climbed from $9.6 million in 2010 to $11.3 million on June 30 of this year.

The audit did not cover the Stevie Wonder concert debacle and the loss of $200,000 in an apparent scam.

“We need to put this affair and its aftermath behind us,” said a regents’ written statement after the decision. “We have learned from this matter and will make sure we have safeguards and guidelines in place so it does not happen again.”

The regents also reiterated its commitment to university autonomy and vowed that they will not be influenced by “undue pressure” from inside or outside of the university.

The statement contained no mention of the board’s discussions on the future of embattled UH President M.R.C. Greenwood.

The board met for nearly three hours behind closed doors this afternoon with attorney William McCorriston and another lawyer from his firm before going into a public session to approve Donovan’s settlement. They met for another 45 minutes before ending the meeting and authorizing the written statement.

The board hired McCorriston under a $25,000 contract to assist regents with their discussions on Greenwood’s employment contract. McCorriston assisted the university eight years ago with a settlement agreement that allowed former UH President Evan Dobelle to resign and paid him more than $1 million after the board initially fired Dobelle for cause.

In their public session today, the board approved Donovan’s new job as a legal settlement by an 11-to-4 vote. Regents John Holzman, Benjamin Kudo, Thomas Shigemoto and Jan Sullivan voted no.

The board also voted to establish a task group to look into ways of providing more oversight of UH athletics spending.

Donovan had been put on paid leave in July after the athletic department lost $200,000 in an apparent scam involving a bogus Stevie Wonder concert. He hired attorney David Simons, who threatened to sue the university for defamation.

UH attorneys and Simons agreed to a settlement in which Donovan would leave his $240,000 a year job as UH Manoa athletic director. That job would have ended in March when his contract ran out. Donovan agreed to take a $211,200 newly created marketing job in the Chancellor’s Office for three years. His initial salary was reduced to $200,640 because of a temporary pay cut for all senior executives in light of budget problems.

The Attorney General’s Office issued an opinion that the regents violated their policies by not approving Donovan’s new job as a legal settlement.

On August 22, the board met for more than seven hours behind closed doors to review the failed Stevie Wonder concert and its aftermath, but they did not vote on the settlement. Instead, they issued a statement supporting UH President M.R.C. Greenwood and UH Manoa Chancellor Tom Apple and expressed their support for the decision to reassign Donovan.

The board’s lack of public discussion prompted the state Senate to hold hearings on UH accountability.

During the hearings, regent’s vice chairman James Lee told senators that the board did not formally approve the settlement because UH lawyers determined that only the $30,000 paid to Donovan’s attorney was considered a settlement.

The state Attorney General’s Office disagreed and said the board should have considered Donovan’s salary as part of the settlement.

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