The University of Hawaii is using state funds to pay for unofficial trips to New Orleans. Here, UH fans fill a section of the stands at the Superdome on New Year's Day in New Orleans.
Free trips enrich UH ‘pride’
STORY SUMMARY » | READ THE FULL STORY
The University of Hawaii at Manoa is using state funds to pay for about $200,000 spent to take spouses, girlfriends and children of staff, coaches and VIPs to the New Year's Day Sugar Bowl football game in New Orleans pending the results of an Ethics Commission inquiry, university officials said.
E-mails obtained by the Star-Bulletin show there was a vigorous discussion between UH President David McClain, Chief Financial Officer Howard Todo and UH-Manoa administrators about the ethics and legality of using university funds for travel costs that might not be allowed under state law and university policy.
The e-mails and other documents were released through a Freedom of Information Act request by the Star-Bulletin.
The e-mails also show that the trip was not exactly free for people who brought along family members at UH expense. The university is reporting the perk to the Internal Revenue Service, and employees might have to pay taxes on it.
FULL STORY »
Second of two parts
University of Hawaii President David McClain and Chief Financial Officer Howard Todo disagreed with the UH-Manoa administration over how to pay for the people who went to New Orleans at UH expense but served no official state function, e-mails obtained by the Star-Bulletin show.
Besides the players, coaches, cheerleaders, dancers, band members, administrators and staff, about 78 family members and girlfriends traveled to the Sugar Bowl at a cost of about $200,000.
Sugar Bowl sequence
Key dates as the University of Hawaii-Manoa administration decided how to pay for travel to the Sugar Bowl:
Dec. 1: The University of Hawaii Warriors beat the Washington Huskies 35-28 to make the team eligible for the Bowl Championship Series.
Dec. 2: The University of Hawaii is selected to play the Georgia Bulldogs in the Allstate Sugar Bowl on New Year's Day.
Dec. 4: UH sells all 8,500 Sugar Bowl tickets reserved for fans from its initial reduced allotment of tickets. More than 350 season ticket holders are put on a waiting list.
Dec. 10: UH assistant athletic director Carl Clapp, trying to figure out how to pay for upfront costs for the Sugar Bowl, gets approval from Western Athletic Commissioner Karl Benson to have the WAC reimburse the UH Foundation for per diem expenses from the Sugar Bowl payout.
Dec. 19: Benson e-mails the UH Foundation to assure the foundation that "it is customary and routine" for universities to pay travel expenses for spouses and family of coaches and athletic department staff members.
Dec. 20: Former UH athletic director Herman Frazier and UH-Manoa Chancellor Virginia Hinshaw meet with state Ethics Commission Executive Director Dan Mollway to discuss how state law applies to the Sugar Bowl trip.
Dec. 20: In a series of e-mails between the UH Foundation and Frazier, a plan is outlined to have the WAC repay the foundation, subject to approval.
Dec. 22: About 200 Sugar Bowl tickets go on sale to the general public after the university is able to get about 2,750 more tickets.
Dec. 25: The UH football team, administrators and family members leave for New Orleans on a chartered plane.
Jan. 1: UH loses to Georgia 41-10.
Jan. 7: June Jones quits UH-Manoa and becomes head coach at Southern Methodist University.
Jan. 8: Frazier is fired; Clapp is named acting director; and the search begins for a new athletic director.
Jan. 16: Greg McMackin is named UH football coach.
Feb. 22: UH Chief Financial Officer Howard Todo e-mails UH-Manoa administrators that he thought a decision was made in December that the foundation would not be reimbursed with Sugar Bowl proceeds.
March 2: UH Foundation Chief Financial Officer Bill King e-mails UH President David McClain, Todo and UH Vice President for Administration Sam Callejo, reiterating that the foundation should not be sent Sugar Bowl funds that would otherwise go to the university.
March 5: UH pays $291,128.28 to the New Orleans Marriott for its hotel bill.
March 13: The Board of Regents approves Jim Donovan as UH-Manoa athletic director.
March 18: Todo e-mails Hinshaw, Donovan and Clapp, outlining objections to reimbursing the UH Foundation with Sugar Bowl revenues.
May 23: UH releases a list of people who traveled to the Sugar Bowl with the names of some union employees and six people who paid their own way blacked out.
May 28: UH gives final payment of $14,499 to the New Orleans Marriott.
May 30: UH pays Panda Travel $745,689 for the charter flights.
June 6: UH releases the full list of its travel party.
June 27: UH receives a check for $4,385,555 for its share of the Sugar Bowl revenues.
State law and UH polices generally prohibit the university from using state funds to pay for the travel of anyone not on official business.
But UH-Manoa Chancellor Virginia Hinshaw, citing the expectations of bowl officials and the past practices of other teams going to Bowl Championship Series games, said she strongly believes it was necessary to take family members along.
"I think it was highly appropriate to take those folks there," Hinshaw said. "This is the bowl culture. We just want to be sure it fits Hawaii."
Hinshaw said she is awaiting the results of a state Ethics Commission inquiry into whether it was appropriate to pay for family travel.
In the meantime, however, the university used Athletic Department funds to pay for the travel.
Hundreds of pages of e-mails and documents, released to the Star-Bulletin in response to a Freedom of Information Act request, show McClain and Todo questioned whether it was appropriate to pay for family travel with university money.
The e-mails also show the Manoa administration originally planned to pay for unofficial travel with UH Foundation money and then have the Western Athletic Conference reimburse the foundation from Sugar Bowl proceeds.
But in a March 18 e-mail, Todo said McClain objected to reimbursing the foundation because it "could be seen as deliberately attempting to circumvent the rules."
Todo noted, "There is a valid argument that can be made that the Sugar Bowl proceeds should go to the Athletics Revolving Fund, which is a state fund.
"Then the question is whether it is appropriate to use state funds to send family of staff, coaches and players, and regents, non-athletics Manoa people, and UH Foundation people and even a booster to a football game."
The $4.53 million UH received last month as its share of the Sugar Bowl proceeds eventually went to the operating budget for the Athletic Department, officials said Friday.
On Dec. 20, five days before university staff left for New Orleans on chartered flights, Hinshaw and then-athletic director Herman Frazier met with state Ethics Commission Director Dan Mollway.
Mollway said he told the UH-Manoa administrators that normally the state does not pay for spouses, but there have been rare exceptions, and any expenditure of state funds would have to be for a legitimate state purpose.
Hinshaw, Mollway said, told him that the university had to put together a "tremendous delegation to show their support because if they didn't it would affect them down the road."
In hindsight, Hinshaw said in an interview Friday morning, they probably should have had a deeper discussion of the issues raised by family travel.
"We certainly didn't cover everything under the sun," Hinshaw said. "These are complex issues. They are not just cut and dry, black and white."
The plan to have the foundation pay for all expenses and then receive reimbursement was devised as the UH Athletic Department struggled in December to figure out how to pay for the estimated $2 million in expenses for the Sugar Bowl, when the bowl payout would not be received until June -- after all the bills were due.
The UH Foundation did pay about $13,733 for per diem expenses of some family members and UH guests and for some costs of receptions and gifts, UH Foundation Chief Financial Officer Bill King said.
Ahahui Koa Anuenue, the athletic booster organization, also paid for the travel of three family members, King said. The Koa Anuenue board approved the payments, King said.
The foundation is not being reimbursed with Sugar Bowl funds, King emphasized.
In general, Mollway said, travel paid by the UH Foundation would likely be seen as a gift to the university and not state funds.
Hinshaw said part of the purpose of a bowl game is to reward the coaches and the team for their success.
Because the games are played during the holidays, it is customary to bring along families, she said.
"Bowl practice is to keep the families together," Hinshaw said.
The materials released by the university do not include e-mails and records in former athletic director Frazier's UH account. Those e-mails no longer exist, UH attorneys said. The documents also do not include e-mails from UH attorneys, which were withheld because of attorney-client privilege.
The e-mails also indicate there was some miscommunication between the Manoa administration, the UH system and the foundation in the hectic days in December when UH-Manoa was trying to figure out the details of how to send 569 people to the Sugar Bowl and how to pay for it.
Not until late February, when the bills started coming due, did Todo, McClain and the UH Foundation realize that UH-Manoa was still planning to reimburse the foundation with Sugar Bowl money, the e-mails show.
And UH-Manoa administrators apparently did not know about McClain's objections and concerns about using university money to pay for family travel.
Hinshaw noted that the university had only a few weeks to plan the logistics of the travel arrangements and that the university also had to hire a new football coach and athletic director during that time.
The bottom line, Hinshaw said, is that the Sugar Bowl was a success for those who traveled to New Orleans and for the university.
"It built a sense of awareness and pride," Hinshaw said.
She said the university is looking forward and trying to learn lessons from the experience so that the next time the football team goes to a bowl, things will go smoother.
And, Hinshaw emphasized, there will be a next time.
Friday, July 18, 2008
The University of Hawaii Foundation paid the travel costs for three family members of foundation employees, according to Bill King, the chief financial officer of the foundation. Originally, this article erroneously reported that the family members were the daughter and grandchildren of then-UH defensive coach Greg McMackin.
University funds were not used to pay for the travel of football players’ girlfriends. The subheadline on this page incorrectly said state money was used to pay for players’ girlfriends. The story summary and articl also incorrectly implied state money was used to pay for the travel of players’ girlfriends.