UH did its best to tackle Sugar Bowl travel issues
E-mails show that University of Hawaii officials disagreed about paying expenses for some of the travel to the Sugar Bowl.
Inner communications at the University of Hawaii indicate responsible efforts were made to comply with ethical rules in paying for a expenses of people regarded as the university's delegation to this year's Sugar Bowl. The experience should result in development of a policy to be applied to future bowl trips.
The 550 people comprising the delegation included not only players, cheerleaders, band members and staff but 78 family members and girlfriends, although state law and UH policies generally ban payment for travel other than that for official business. UH officials have said that Bowl Championship Series, NCAA and Western Athletic Conference officials had required that some spouses should be included in the contingent because of social events.
"This is the bowl culture," UH-Manoa Chancellor Virginia Hinshaw told the Star-Bulletin's Craig Gima. "We just want to be sure it fits Hawaii."
E-mails obtained by this newspaper revealed that UH President David McClain and Chief Financial Officer Howard Todo questioned the propriety of spending university money on family travel. McClain suggested that using UH Foundation money to pay for the travel and then reimbursing the foundation with university money "could be seen as deliberately attempting to circumvent the rules."
Hinshaw and then-athletic director Herman Frazier met with Dan Mollway, executive director of the state Ethics Commission, on Dec. 20 to discuss how state law would apply to the trip to the New Year's Day bowl game. The travel cost was nearly $2 million, and the foundation spent less than $14,000 on per diem expenses for some family members and other costs, according to Bill King, the foundation's chief financial officer. King said it is not being reimbursed.
In a May 23 news release, Hinshaw said, "We made these decisions based on extensive conversations with our fellow WAC school Boise State on their travel to the Fiesta Bowl, along with our knowledge of other schools' policies and our experiences with the Sheraton Hawaii Bowl." Spouses and children of Boise State employees went to the 2007 Fiesta Bowl at state expense.
Hinshaw now says queries could have been deeper. "These are complex issues," she says. "They are not just cut and dry, black and white."
UH officials tried to deal with those issues in the weeks preceding the trip to New Orleans. From what Hinshaw says, the university is wisely trying to learn from the experience of the Sugar Bowl so policies will have been established when the next bowl comes around.
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