Dobelle siphoned off
A memo from Dobelle's executive secretary, Kristin Blanchfield, also dated Feb. 27, 2003, said that the restrictions were established by Dobelle and not by the Gruss fund and that the money could be used at his discretion.
Gruss, in a July 21, 2004, affidavit, complained that he was never consulted nor informed that the restrictions had been lifted. Gruss has since asked that the money be restored to its original educational purpose.
Rick Fried, Dobelle's attorney, attributed the dispute to communications problems. He said that the issues have been resolved when the UH Board of Regents and Dobelle met in a mediated out-of-court settlement.
The donation, which was kept separate from other foundation money, was used for various foundation expenses, including a promotional video for Dobelle when he was named Salesperson of the Year in May 2003 by the Sales & Marketing Executives of Honolulu.
The video was made by local producer Heather Giugni, who was hired by former UH Vice President Paul Costello.
Regents initially fired Dobelle "for cause" in June but rescinded the termination after they and Dobelle reached a mediated, out-of-court settlement in which Dobelle agreed to resign and accept a $1.05 million severance payment. The regents have never publicly disclosed the "cause" for Dobelle's initial firing.
Gruss, 61, is a New York merchant banker who has given generously to several art and medical research institutions on the mainland. His firm, Gruss & Co., is a privately held investment company founded in 1940.
He also is a former investor in the Cleveland Indians Major League Baseball team and serves on the board of New Jersey-based Mack Cali Realty Corp., which invests in office properties on the East Coast.
Established in 1955, the UH Foundation is a tax-exempt entity that supports the university through fund-raising and other activities.
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