Donovan allowed to remain at UH after threatening lawsuit

By Andrew Pereira
Published On: Aug 30 2012 10:52:42 AM HST
Updated On: Aug 24 2012 06:25:16 AM HST

The Stevie Wonder concert fiasco has some state lawmakers questioning UH leadership.

HONOLULU -

A new position offered to former University of Hawaii Athletics Director Jim Donovan came about only after UH President MRC Greenwood and UH Manoa Chancellor Tom Apple were threatened with a lawsuit by Donovan's attorney.

According to a July 16 letter released by the university Wednesday, attorney David Simons wrote that Greenwood and Apple "defamed" Donovan and "ruined his reputation" when they announced his suspension as AD on July 11.

The letter continues, saying Donovan was made a scapegoat by Greenwood and Apple because of the now infamous Stevie Wonder concert fiasco, in which the university wired $200,000 to a company in Florida with no connection to the superstar. The concert was supposed to have raised funds for athletics.

"Because this matter was embarrassing to both of you; you panicked and acted peremptorily to suspend Jim in order to deflect criticism from yourselves, and people who reported to you," Simons wrote. "By suspending Jim, you falsely made it appear that it was all his fault."

On August 11, Greenwood and Apple signed an agreement with Donovan that guarantees him a position under Apple's office at $211,200 per year for the next three years, on the condition Donovan agrees not to sue the university. Donovan's new contract is scheduled to begin March 24, 2013. Until then, he's being paid $200,640, or $30,000 less than he earned as AD.

Donovan's attorney said his client was in Dallas when the money was wired to Florida, and Donovan instructed that no money be transferred until the Stevie Wonder contract was cleared and approved by the university's general counsel. Simons said the final decision to release funds for the concert was made by the university's fiscal office.

A fact-finders report released Wednesday by the university and reviewed by the Board of Regents essentially cleared Donovan of any wrongdoing.

State lawmakers who continue to support Donovan and want him reinstated as athletics director, believe Greenwood and Apple are directly to blame for Donovan's threat of a lawsuit.

"That's because of poor handling on the part of UH administration, and in particular, the president and chancellor," said Rep. Mark Takai, who also serves as president of the UH Letterwinners Club. "They're the ones that came forward and basically chastised, ridiculed and condemned Jim Donovan."

"You have to look at that situation in my mind and say, 'Well, should it just stop at him, or should it go higher up the chain," added Rep. James Tokioka.

Meanwhile, state Sen. Jill Tokuda, who chairs the Education Committee, said the autonomy the university asked for and received in 2007 comes with greater responsibility to answer questions honestly and openly about the concert fiasco.

"I think the university is finding out for itself through this situation, that it's going to have to answer the questions that are being posed to them, and be able to be held accountable for their actions as well," said Tokuda. "Obviously, the real hope is that this investigation was done thoroughly (and) that everyone here was treated fairly."

Tokioka believes lawmakers will move to conduct hearings on what is now being called the "Wonder blunder."

"I'm sure we're going to have meetings, and I'm sure there are going to be people who want to get more answers from the university and the president and the chancellor," said Tokioka.

The University of Hawaii Professional Assembly has also expressed concern about the issues raised by Donovan's attorney in the July 16 letter. On its website UHPA wrote:

"The issues raised in the letter that the UH failure resides within the offices of General Counsel Darolyn Lendio and VP-Adminstration Howard Toto, has not been addressed adequately. UHPA is very concerned that the decisions made by President Greenwood and the Board of Regents, including the transfer of Mr. Donovan to another job, will encourage legislative scrutiny of all UH funding creating significant uncertainty for our students and faculty.

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