BY JIM DOOLEY – U.S. Senator Daniel Inouye has come to the defense of University of Hawaii President M.R.C. Greenwood.
A letter from Hawaii’s senior senator was delivered to the UH Board of Regents before members went into executive session today to discuss Greenwood’s employment contract.
The board met behind closed doors on Greenwood’s future and other matters before adjourning without announcing any decision.
Inouye urged the regents to consider the “financial and reputational” costs to the university if Greenwood’s employment contract were to be terminated.
“I would urge you to balance the many exciting initiatives and opportunities that are moving forward for the benefit of out Hawaii students under President Greenwood’s leadership,” Inouye’s letter said.
Greenwood’s contract runs through mid-2015 but she has come under fire this year for her handling of UH financial and management issues.
She oversaw the reassignment of popular UH Manoa Athletic Director James Donovan after a summer fundraiser for the athletics department was cancelled at a loss of more than $200,000.
The fundraiser, a concert by singer-songwriter Stevie Wonder, was abruptly called off after Wonder’s agents told UH officials he had never been contacted about the event.
A $200,000 deposit paid by UH for the event was lost and the FBI is investigating the event, now known as the “Wonder Blunder.”
“No doubt there were serious failures in internal checks and balances of the university system which must be corrected to ensure such an embarrassing episode is not repeated,” Inouye wrote.
“I have been around for a long time,” said the senator, a UH alumnus, “and as alarming and upsetting as this incident may be, it is but a blip in the broader swath of the University of Hawaii’s history.”
The regents went behind closed doors shortly after noon to discuss Greenwood’s future as well as a legal settlement reached with Donovan after he was ousted as Athletic Director.
Donovan threatened to sue after he was placed on paid leave of absence in July and was then transferred to a new, $211,000-per-year job in the Manoa Chancellor’s office. The university also paid $30,000 in legal fees incurred by Donovan.
A state Senate committee that conducted hearings into the Wonder Blunder and other UH issues questioned the legality of the Donovan settlement since it was not formally approved by the full board of regents.
The regents today did vote to approve that settlement. Four board members dissented.
“Today we voted to affirm the Administration’s reassignment of former Athletic Director Jim Donovan because we need to put this affair and its aftermath behind us. We have learned from this matter and will make sure that we have safeguards and guidelines in place so it does not happen again,” the board said in a written statement.