Dobelle fired

A UH regent announces
that the school's president
"no longer has our trust"

Dobelle is sacked "for cause," which
means he won't be paid $2.26 million

Timeline of Dobelle's tenure


Thursday, June 17, 2004

University of Hawaii regents contacted ousted UH President Evan Dobelle's wife Tuesday night and told her it was urgent that they get in touch with Dobelle. They did not tell her that her husband had been fired as was reported in a Page A1 article yesterday.

The Honolulu Star-Bulletin strives to make its news report fair and accurate. If you have a question or comment about news coverage, call Editor Frank Bridgewater at 529-4791 or email him at

The University of Hawaii Board of Regents fired UH President Evan Dobelle "for cause" last night after a 12-hour meeting, much of it behind closed doors.

About 8:30 p.m., board Chairwoman Patricia Lee issued a statement saying: "Sadly, we have come to the realization that the president no longer has our trust, and there is no longer a unity of purpose between the board and the president or a clear recognition of his integrity, character, and commitment."

The vote was unanimous, Lee said.

"This is the most difficult decision ever to be made by the regents," she said. But she added that the board believes it is the "right decision at the right time."

Vice President for Academic Affairs David McClain was named acting UH president, "effective immediately."

Lee said the board has been working with McClain and UH Chief of Staff Sam Callejo for the past year and both have their trust. She said they expect the day-to-day operation of the university to continue as usual.

In a statement issued late last night, Gov. Linda Lingle said, "The Board of Regents' decision reflects what it believes is in the best interest of the University of Hawaii system and its students.

"As additional information is made available by the board in the coming days, we will have a clearer understanding of the reasons for President Dobelle's dismissal and what the university's next steps are."

Dobelle is on vacation on the mainland and is not scheduled to return to the university until next week. The board attempted to reach Dobelle for several hours last night at his hotel room. Lee said they were able to tell Dobelle's wife about his firing, but they did not talk to him.

Lee said Dobelle has been placed on administrative leave with pay. Once he is officially notified, his salary will continue for 30 days. Per his contract, Dobelle will also have the use of the president's official residence at College Hill for 60 days.

Regents would not say what the "cause" is for the president's dismissal. But the phrase is important because if Dobelle is fired for cause, he will not get the $2.26 million buy-out of his contract.

Dobelle's contract defines "cause" as either conviction for a felony offense; a determination by doctors that he is mentally unstable or otherwise unable to perform the duties of his office; or conduct that constitutes "moral turpitude," bringing public disrespect or ridicule upon the university.

Lee would not speculate about whether Dobelle's termination will lead to a lawsuit. She referred questions about "cause" to UH Vice President for Legal Affairs Walter Kirimitsu.

Dobelle has been criticized for politicizing the university by endorsing a gubernatorial candidate; taking too much credit for higher enrollment and research and training fund increases; hiring former contacts for consultant contracts and top administrators; paying high salaries to top administrators; having a communications gap with the board on finances; and spending lavishly on travel.

Dobelle's dismissal doesn't necessarily mean he will leave the university. Dobelle is also a tenured professor in the Urban and Regional Planning department at UH-Manoa.

UH spokeswoman Carolyn Tanaka said another agreement calls for Dobelle to be paid the "highest prevailing salary" should he decide to stay and either teach or do research at Manoa. The current highest-paid full professor in the department is paid $94,896, Tanaka said.

J.N. Musto, executive director of the UH Professional Assembly, said it is not unusual for UH executives to return to positions in the union with six figure salaries.

Earlier yesterday, Dobelle issued a written statement saying that he welcomed a "fair and thoughtful review of my work as president of the University of Hawaii."

Before yesterday's closed-door meeting, regents heard from about a dozen native Hawaiian faculty and students, who urged them to keep Dobelle as president.

"I don't believe you're going to find a better man to do the job," said Lilikala Kame'eleihiwa, director of the Center for Hawaiian Studies, speaking for the Kuali'i Council at UH-Manoa, a group dedicated to recruiting more native Hawaiians into the university, and to creating a Hawaiian place of learning on campus.

Kame'eleihiwa said Dobelle is a strong supporter of native Hawaiians. She said he gave $1.5 million for native Hawaiian programs at the university in his first year in office. He has also acknowledged that the university sits on ceded lands and because of that, the university has a responsibility to native Hawaiians, she said.

"We don't want him to be fired. We want him here to support us," she said.

In a written statement, the Kuali'i Council also called for the regents to resign unless they can refrain from making anonymous statements to the press.

In a Sunday article, the Star-Bulletin quoted unnamed regents who said they expected to discuss whether to fire Dobelle at yesterday's meeting.

Kuali'i Council members also carried signs "Fire Anonymous Regents," "Hawaiians Aloha Dobelle" and "Evaluate Regents."

In his written statement, Dobelle criticized the "total violation of the evaluation process by the inaccurate and sensational public comment of anonymous regents."

He said he expected that the regents would review his evaluation during yesterday's meeting, send him a written statement that he could respond to, and then meet again to finalize the evaluation process.

The regents have been publicly feuding with Dobelle since a closed-door meeting in September when the regents gave him a negative second-year evaluation. Dobelle also refused to accept the goals and performance expectations that the regents set for him.

Dobelle complained that several new regents appointed by Gov. Linda Lingle were part of the evaluation, even though they did not serve during the year he was being evaluated for. He also complained the evaluation process was overly secret.

Dobelle's relationship with Lingle got off to a rocky start after he publicly endorsed then-Lt. Gov. Mazie Hirono, Lingle's opponent in the 2002 gubernatorial election.

Earlier yesterday, Musto said it is hard to know what was going on between the regents and the president.

"The only obvious thing is that there is a lack of trust, whether that's justified or unjustified," he said. "If the people that you work for don't trust you, then you're in an impossible situation."


Evan Dobelle, from
beginning to end

A timeline of Evan Dobelle's tenure as UH president:

>> June 29, 2001: Kenneth Mortimer leaves after eight years as president of the University of Hawaii and chancellor of UH-Manoa.

>> July 1, 2001: Evan Dobelle becomes the 12th president of the University of Hawaii with an annual salary of $442,000. His seven-year contract calls for him to be paid his full salary and a bonus if he is fired without cause.

>> Aug. 26, 2002: Board of Regents Chairman Bert Kobayashi praises Dobelle and cites his many accomplishments after the board finishes its first-year evaluation of his performance.

>> November 2002: Dobelle, acting as an individual, appears in television commercials to endorse Democratic Lt. Gov. Mazie Hirono for governor.

>> Nov. 9, 2002: UH regent Mike Hartley resigns in large part because of Dobelle's endorsement of Hirono.

>> Jan. 10, 2003: Big Island businessman Allan Ikawa resigns from the Board of Regents.

>> March 21, 2003: The state auditor criticizes what she says is the UH's mismanagement of its special funds accounts.

>> April 24, 2003: The state Senate confirms Gov. Linda Lingle's nominations of Kitty Lagareta, Trent Kakuda, Alvin Tanaka and Byron Bender to the Board of Regents. Two other nominees, Shelton Jim On and Edward Sultan, are rejected.

>> May 8, 2003: Lingle names Ted Hong and Jane Tatibouet as interim regents.

>> July 6, 2003: "Dangerous Equations," an essay by state lawmakers and UH faculty critical of Dobelle's spending practices and leadership at UH, is published in the Star-Bulletin. The following week, the Star-Bulletin publishes an essay written by Dobelle called "Embracing Hope" that sets out his accomplishments.

>> April 2: A critical evaluation by regents of Dobelle's performance and a set of goals and expectations for the UH president is released.

>> June 2: Regents consider Dobelle's third-year evaluation and an audit of the spending from his protocol fund.

>> June 15: Regents unanimously fire Dobelle.


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