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Friday, September 24, 2004



Legal fees
to cost UH $1M

Insurance will cover much
of the bill in the Evan Dobelle
dispute, university regents say


The legal dispute over the ouster of former University of Hawaii President Evan Dobelle will cost the school about $1 million in legal fees.

Records provided by the regents show that three law firms hired by the university -- McCorriston Miller Mukai MacKinnon LLP, Marr Hipp Jones & Wang and the Law Offices of Jerry M. Hiatt -- have billed the university $651,157.11 for work relating to Dobelle's ouster.

Regents said they expect to see an additional $100,000 in legal bills to trickle in during the next few months.

Those fees are on top of the $290,000 paid by the university to Dobelle's legal team under a mediated settlement reached in July.




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Much of the legal bills will be covered by the university's insurance carrier, regents said.

"It's a huge amount of money for the regents. It's a lot to swallow," said Kitty Lagareta, vice chairwoman of the Board of Regents. "But given the cards this board was dealt, we feel we played them in the best way for the university."

Lagareta and fellow regents said their lawyers saved the university money in the long run. Under his 2001 contract and various side agreements, Dobelle was entitled to as much as $5 million had he lost his job for reasons other than cause.

The legal costs, combined with Dobelle's $1.05 million severance pay, comes out to less than half of that amount, regents said.

"Had we decided to buy out his contract, we could have paid him $4 million to $5 million," Lagareta said.

Rick Fried, Dobelle's lead attorney, could not be reached for comment. In addition to Fried's firm, Cronin Fried Sekiya Kekina & Fairbanks, Dobelle was represented by local lawyers Mark Davis, John Edmunds, Jeff Portnoy and David Simons.

The McCorriston firm billed the university $291,080.83 for legal work conducted between June and September. The firm's senior attorneys billed the university at $350 an hour, while associates' rates were set at $130 an hour.

Marr Hipp Jones & Wang charged the university $185,105.81, while Big Island attorney Jerry Hiatt's legal tab amounted to $46,348.49. Barry Marr's hourly rate was $295, while Hiatt billed at an hourly rate of $200.

The McCorriston firm retained several outside consultants to assist in the litigation, including local forensic accountant Candon Consulting Group LLC, public relations experts QRS-Pacific Inc. and mainland private investigative firm Investigative Services Worldwide.

Candon Consulting's tab came out to $38,194.17, while QSR-Pacific billed $89,742.81. Investigative Services, which charged the university $685, was hired to help investigate where Dobelle was during a June 15 meeting in which the UH regents voted unanimously to fire him with cause. The "with cause" designation was later rescinded after regents and Dobelle reached a mediated settlement in July.

Regents attempted to reach Dobelle by having him paged during the meeting and calling his hotel room in Chicago but were told by his wife, Kit, that he was away.

According to a person familiar with the contract, Investigative Services interviewed the hotel worker who paged Dobelle's hotel room and spoke with Dobelle's wife.

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