BY JIM DOOLEY –After insulting the state’s political leaders and demanding $2 million from the
University of Hawaii regents, today UH President M.R.C. Greenwood took it all back, said she was sorry and kept her job.
It was a quiet end to a dramatic chain of events that has roiled the Manoa Valley campus since mid-summer. The furor began in July with a $200,000 con job…saw the popular UH Athletic Director bounced from his job…brought Greenwood before an accusatory panel of state senators… and climaxed with a 10-page bellicose Greenwood letter to the regents that sought $2 million in damages and impugned the integrity of the governor and legislative leaders.
After receiving that confidential letter in October, the regents met four times behind closed doors to discuss Greenwood’s future. Her employment contract, good through mid-2015, pays her $429,000 annually.
Greenwood withdrew the letter last week after U.S. Sen. Daniel Inouye — a UH alumnus — and others counseled the involved parties to cool their tempers and resolve their differences.
Then Hawaii News Now reporter Keoki Kerr got his hands on the letter and disclosed its contents Tuesday night, two days before the fourth scheduled regents meeting on what to do about Greenwood.
The letter, written by Greenwood’s lawyer Jerry Hiatt, accused Gov. Neil Abercrombie, his chief of staff Bruce Coppa, Senate President Shan Tsutsui and Speaker of the House Calvin Say of improperly pressuring Greenwood to give Athletic Director Jim Donovan his job back.
The letter said the pressure violated language in the state constitution that guarantees the university freedom from outside meddling.
It insinuated that recent hearings about UH and Greenwood conducted by a select group of state senators were part of that unconstitutional meddling.
The letter said Greenwood had been defamed and might file suit if she didn’t receive $2 million in damages.
Against that backdrop, the regents met for hours again today in executive session on Maui, finally releasing a statement tonight that said all the issues had been resolved.
“The Board of Regents and President Greenwood announced that their partnership to achieve ever higher standards of academic excellence throughout the UH system will continue and remains strong,” the statement said.
Recent campus events had “created strains in the University’s leadership,” the release said.
“President Greenwood apologizes for having sent the letter to the Board of Regents, which she has since withdrawn, and has no plans to bring legal action against the University or the Board,” the statement continued.
“Soul-searching has led the Regents and the President to rededicate themselves to the University’s unique role in educating the people of Hawaii as well as serving as a center for productive and innovative research,” said the release.
And there was a sentence about outsider involvement in University affairs: “The Regents and the President share a conviction that autonomy and independence in governing its internal affairs are essential if the University is to carry out its mission.
Earlier in the day, the regents released an auditor’s report on the event that touched off all the trouble – loss of $200,000 in a phony fundraising scam that was supposed to have featured singer/songwriter Stevie Wonder.
Two East Coast men have since been charged in federal court with complicity in that crime. One has pleaded guilty and the second will make his first court appearance her next week.
Details of the audit can be found here.