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Regents, Greenwood agree with Senate panel recommendations


In response to findings by a state Senate investigatory committee, the University of Hawaii Board of Regents and president M.R.C. Greenwood said today that oversight, transparency and accountability at the UH will be addressed.

The board, which had come under harsh criticism for its lack of oversight, said policies and procedures would be reviewed to clarify the lines of authority for the president’s office, the flagship UH-Manoa campus and throughout the UH system.

“More than ever it behooves us as leaders of an academic community to respect and maintain a balance between participation and accountability. The board shall inform the committee of the results of its reviews,” the board said in a press release.

Steps that will be taken include ensuring that the requirements of state’s sunshine laws are met, and responding to the legislative committee on its requests for detailed information.

The Senate Special Committee on Accountability, led by Sen. Donna Mercado Kim (D, Kalihi Valley-Halawa), investigated the failed Stevie Wonder concert and its aftermath. When the committee’s report was released Nov. 19, the university said Greenwood was traveling and hadn’t had a chance to review the report and the regents had no comment.

The report also raised questions about the university’s spending to hire outside attorneys and public relations firms. 

Former Athletic Director Jim Donovan was blamed for failing to provide oversight and ensuring due diligence that would have prevented the university from losing $200,000 in what turned out to be an alleged scam.

In June, university officials announced that Wonder had agreed to an Aug. 18 performance to benefit the UH athletics department. Ticket sales were well under way by July 10 when Donovan announced that there would be no concert 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 was conducted. UH officials also explained they had paid $200,000 to a Florida company that purported to be authorized to book the star. 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. 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.

The FBI arrested two men last month in connection with the alleged scam.  

The legislative committee blamed the regents for failing to provide sufficient oversight and governance, a lack of openness and for not following board policies over the approval of Donovan’s new job in the UH-Manoa chancellor’s office as a legal settlement and the approval of a five-year contract for Apple.

“The autonomy and independence of the university are no less essential to the effective discharge of its mission than transparency and accountability,” the board and Greenwood said in today’s press release. “The board appreciates the committee’s acknowledgement that it ‘recognizes that the university has general autonomy over its internal affairs’ while ‘the Legislature has the exclusive jurisdiction to identify laws of statewide concern.’ “

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