University of Hawaii regents

Board navigates outcry
over firing of Dobelle

People still disagree over how it was handled and whether former University of Hawaii President Evan Dobelle should have been fired.

Ten who made a difference

The Star-Bulletin recognizes 10 individuals who have changed Hawaii this year

But the Board of Regents, led by Chairwoman Patricia Lee, was unanimous in its decision to dismiss the president.

Lee, with the board standing behind her, announced the firing "for cause" after a 12-hour meeting on June 15. Dobelle, who was on vacation, did not attend the meeting.

"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," Lee said.

Lee, one of four regents appointed to the board by former Gov. Ben Cayetano, guided the board through one of its most difficult and controversial decisions in the university's history.

The firing, followed by a mediated settlement that rescinded the firing and allowed Dobelle to resign, led to the installation of interim UH President David McClain.

The university paid Dobelle about $1 million, plus about $300,000 to his attorneys and agreed to continue payments on a life insurance policy.

Dobelle also gets $125,000 a year for two years for an unspecified research project and gave up his tenured faculty position. The money is less than the $2.35 million in severance that his contract called for.

The months leading up to Dobelle's removal as president were marked by public disagreements between the president and the regents over a scathing second-year evaluation of Dobelle's performance.

The evaluation and the minutes of meetings show regents were concerned over Dobelle's management abilities, lack of fund-raising and travel spending.

An audit report of Dobelle's $200,000 annual protocol fund showed that the president mixed personal and business spending.

Dobelle blamed the regents for micromanaging and not following proper procedures for his evaluation.

There were also allegations of petty politics by both the regents and Dobelle, who publicly backed losing gubernatorial candidate Mazie Hirono in 2002.

Six months later, Dobelle has a new job in New England. McClain and the regents appear to have each other's trust. And despite a devastating flood on the Manoa campus, the university appears to be moving forward again.

E-mail to City Desk


© Honolulu Star-Bulletin -- https://archives.starbulletin.com