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The Honolulu Advertiser

Posted on: Friday, August 13, 2004

How regents reached decision

 •  Regents' minutes reveal concerns about Dobelle

By Beverly Creamer
Advertiser Education Writer

The meeting at which University of Hawai'i regents decided to fire President Evan Dobelle — a decision they later rescinded in a settlement agreement — began with advice from the board's attorney and discussion of an audit of Dobelle's spending, draft minutes of the session released yesterday show.

At the suggestion of Board of Regents chairwoman Patricia Lee, the meeting then shifted to comments about Dobelle by each board member.

According to the draft minutes, those comments were uniformly negative.

Regents variously said that Dobelle lacked support, had a combative style and could not be trusted.

Several expressed concern about the cost of a hiring agreement that would allow Dobelle a sabbatical year at full salary.

According to the draft minutes, "Lee said that she favors a graceful termination or resignation, but President Dobelle already stated publicly that we 'can't fire him' and that the board will have to 'buy him out.'

"She added that this may be the president's final position, but that she has done some analysis and ... the university could save about $1,386,000 even if the board did buy him out of his main contract and probably much more once the board does an assessment of all of his side agreements."

She also said the university could save money with the departures of "his high-priced people, some of whom have already left," the minutes show.

Regent Byron W. Bender then moved that the board begin an executive session with its attorney "on the manner in which the president might be terminated."

About 2 hours later, the board closed that session and entered another at which regent Walter Nunokawa moved that on the advice of the board's attorney and review of "the evidence and findings as presented by counsel," the board immediately terminate Dobelle "for cause."

The meeting was briefly recessed to bring UH Vice President David McClain into the room, where he was told he would become acting president of the university.

According to the minutes, McClain "accepted the challenge but expressed regrets over the events and the fact that things had not worked out between Dr. Dobelle and the Board of Regents."

The minutes indicate McClain "asked that discussions commence as to how to best move the university forward."