Spending is among
criticism of Dobelle

A now-public report also praises
the UH president’s leadership

The University of Hawaii Board of Regents made public yesterday a critical and controversial evaluation of UH President Evan Dobelle completed last fall but kept secret until a state Office of Information Practices opinion last week that affirmed that the document is public.

University of Hawaii The regents praised Dobelle for his leadership, vision, creativity and enthusiasm but also raised concerns about the high salaries of his top administrators, cronyism, travel spending, financial management, political endorsements, fund-raising ability and his relationship with the board, governor and Legislature.

After the release of the evaluation and a related document detailing performance expectations and guidelines for the president, regents Chairwoman Patricia Lee and Dobelle both said they believe they have moved past last year's evaluation and that its release will not affect their relationship.

Pros and cons about UH President Dobelle

Highlights of last year's evaluation of University of Hawaii President Evan Dobelle by the UH Board of Regents:

» Leadership through the accreditation process.
» The process of putting together a Strategic Plan for the university.
» Responding to community interests, such as the new film school.
» Vision and ability to bring creative approaches to the table.

» Politicizing of the university.
» Unclear academic vision.
» Contradictory and self-serving statements.
» High salaries of top administration officials.
» Hiring former contacts as consultants.
» Communication gap with the board on financial matters.
» Fund raising.
» "You vs. us" relationship with board.
» Lavish spending and first-class travel.
» Relationship with state Legislature and governor.

The regents are currently working on a more detailed third-year evaluation, which they hope to complete by this summer.

Dobelle said this year's evaluation will be conducted in public, unlike last year's evaluation, which Dobelle and the OIP criticized as being excessively secret.

Yesterday afternoon, Dobelle criticized the evaluation as "flawed." He said the evaluation contains "an enormous amount of misinformation, misstatements and mischaracterizations."

In criticizing his travel spending, the board cited Dobelle's first-class travel and the staff he brings along as "luxuries that bespeak to an insensitivity to the economic and budgetary restraints currently facing the University and the State of Hawaii."

The board noted that he is "in no way 'required' by contractual obligation to travel first class."

The evaluation also goes into the rocky relationship between the board and the president.

It cites a lack of communication on financial issues, a "you vs. us" posture and what the regents say is a propensity to make major public statements without informing the board.

In its conclusions, the board notes: "We hope that the period before us will bring transition, for we can no longer allow the relationship between you and the board to flounder in distrust.

"We need to regain a unity of goals, unity of commitment and unity of mind and trust."

Dobelle said part of his problems with the board stem from the amount of turnover on the board. He noted that six new regents will join the board in July.

The evaluation also cites Dobelle's endorsement of Democratic gubernatorial candidate Mazie Hirono as "politicizing" the university.

Dobelle said yesterday that he had followed board policy and informed the board about the personal endorsement.

The regents and Dobelle also disagree as to why he was hired. Dobelle said he was hired as an agent of change and that many of the criticisms of his administration are from people resistant to change.

The evaluation cites former regents who said he was hired primarily as a fund-raiser and academic leader.

The evaluation covers a period in Dobelle's presidency when he was under increasing criticism in the Legislature and other quarters over his performance, spending, hiring of associates at high salaries and fund raising.

Two regents, Michael Hartley and Alan Ikawa, resigned from the board -- Hartley because of Dobelle's endorsement of Hirono.

In his resignation note, Ikawa said: "One must be honest in communicating one's goals and expectations to others and practical in assessing what one can in fact afford to do. Commitments must be fulfilled on sound fiscal as well as philosophical bases."

A critical essay on Dobelle's presidency -- "Dangerous Equations," by state Rep. Mark Takai, state Sen. Donna Kim and faculty members Amy Agbayani and Ralph Moberly -- was also published in the Star-Bulletin in July while the regents were in the midst of the evaluation.

The evaluation reflects some of the criticisms raised in the essay.

Dobelle said he is "not embarrassed" by the evaluation.

"The tone is somewhat unprofessional," he said. "It's certainly not a tone I would have used with people who I would evaluate."

He also said he did not agree to the performance goals and expectations as are required by board policy, and he criticized the use of information from confidential sources.

"The people who know me, allegedly know me and can't say something to my face, do I really care what they have to say in a secret meeting?" Dobelle asked.

In putting together the evaluation, the regents interviewed eight former regents, "a dozen or more" student and faculty leaders, labor leaders, legislators and the state auditor.


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