Details emerge on
UH public relations
deal in Dobelle ouster

A consultant was paid $275 an hour
for legal advice and strategies

A law firm hired by the University of Hawaii Board of Regents released a partial list of services provided by a public relations consultant that led to an $89,743 bill in connection with the dismissal of former UH President Evan Dobelle.

Rick Zwern, a former boss of Board of Regents Vice-Chairwoman Kitty Lagareta, billed at a rate of $275 an hour for 294 hours of work between June 25 and Aug. 10. The rest of the bill went for taxes and expenses.

Other local public relations firms said $275 an hour is high for Hawaii, where most firms bill between $100 and $200 an hour. But it is not high for Los Angeles, New York or other top mainland cities.

"All I know is, it's lower than my rate," said attorney Bill McCorriston, who hired Zwern after consulting with the regents and who charged the university $350 an hour for his legal services.

"I think it's consistent with top-rate public relations services. It's certainly not out of line," he said.

McCorriston added that principals in other local public relations firms he has worked with billed him between $200 and $300 an hour for their services.

Zwern, who is also international training director for the public relations firm of Hill & Knowlton, also billed for work with Jim Jennings, a former Hill & Knowlton executive and former executive vice president of America's Promise, the national youth development organization begun by Colin Powell and current and former U.S. presidents in 1997.

The full bill for Zwern's and Jennings' services was not released.

In a written statement, McCorriston said that much of Zwern's services was related to his legal work for the university, which is protected from disclosure by attorney-client privilege.

The list released yesterday is for public relations activities for non-legal matters, McCorriston said.

The list includes media coverage review, research, developing communications strategy, drafting potential news media statements and planning and review for the release of documents after an OIP opinion that the public should have access to many of the documents and meeting minutes that led to Dobelle's dismissal.

He said Zwern consulted on public relations strategies for UH on Dobelle and the transition to a new president. Zwern also coordinated news media inquiries and managed public communications from the university regarding the mediation efforts, potential litigation, the settlement and Office of Information Practices issues.

Lagareta has said that while she participated in the discussion over hiring Zwern during a June 15 board meeting, she did not make the final decision and disclosed her relationship with him.

Zwern was a co-owner of Communications Pacific when Lagareta was hired in the late 1980s. Zwern and his partner sold the company in 1993 to Hill & Knowlton, and Lagareta and her partner bought the firm from Hill & Knowlton in 1998.

Lagareta said she hires Zwern as a vendor to provide training services at Communications Pacific. But she said Zwern has not had a financial interest in the company since 1994.

University general counsel Walter Kirimitsu also said he does not see a conflict since McCorriston hired Zwern and there is no financial relationship between Lagareta and Zwern.



E-mail to City Desk


Text Site Directory:
[News] [Business] [Features] [Sports] [Editorial] [Do It Electric!]
[Classified Ads] [Search] [Subscribe] [Info] [Letter to Editor]
© 2004 Honolulu Star-Bulletin -- https://archives.starbulletin.com