Governor's press secretary says voice mail proves Abercrombie was advising UH president
Was it undue political pressure or simply a governor providing his best counsel to an embattled University of Hawaii president?
That's the question facing Gov. Neil Abercrombie and UH President MRC Greenwood in the wake of a four-minute voice mail obtained Friday by KITV4 through a Freedom of Information Act request. The recording to Greenwood's office phone was delivered at 3:58 p.m. on Aug. 16, six days after Abercrombie and Greenwood met in the governor's office about the widening Stevie Wonder concert scandal.
In the voice mail, the governor appears to reference his initial face-to-face meeting with Greenwood on Aug. 10, which the governor's press secretary says was sought out by the UH president.
"I realize that the suggestions I made before were not carried through on, and that of course, that's your business and (UH Manoa Chancellor) Tom Apple's business," the governor says in the first 18 seconds of the voicemail. "I honestly believe that the outcome from whatever advice you did take, I think, has not done very good," Abercrombie added.
In the recording, the governor urges Greenwood to call a Board of Regent's meeting about the canceled benefit concert, which led to the university losing more than $200,000 to a bogus entertainment company with no ties to Wonder.
"I can assure you, if this issue is not resolved decisively on Wednesday, by Thursday, you're going to be in the thick of a Senate investigation and all that it entails," Abercrombie said in the voice mail.
In a letter dated Oct. 2, Greenwood's attorney Jerry Hiatt quoted that portion of the recording as an example of "direct pressure" that was being applied by the governor to reinstate Jim Donovan as UH athletics director, while abandoning a settlement with Donovan that would have him working in the Manoa Chancellor's Office for more than $200,000 a year.
Hiatt also demanded a $2 million payout for Greenwood, saying her ability to act independently had been violated and her contract breached. However, the letter was rescinded without explanation on Nov. 6.
The governor's press secretary, Kim Louise McCoy, told KITV4 on Friday the voice mail proves Abercrombie was simply providing his observations and advice to Greenwood, who faced an investigation by the state Senate Special Committee on Accountability, just as the governor predicted.
"Upon her request, he provided advice to her," said Kim McCoy. "The governor has been very consistent and remains consistent with what he's said."
Abercrombie was off-island Friday and was unavailable for comment. But in a Nov. 21 question and answer session with reporters, the governor said he was asked by Greenwood about possible outcomes regarding the concert debacle.
"Anybody asks me for my observations, what I think based on my experience might be the outcome of various scenarios, I tell them," said the governor.
Abercrombie added that Greenwood's attorney may have presented some "mischaracterizations" in the Oct. 2 letter sent to the Board of Regents.
Greenwood was in California on business Friday, and was also unable to comment. The university did not issue a statement on Greenwood's behalf about the release of the governor's voice mail.
Meanwhile, Marc Hubbard, 44 of North Carolina, pleaded not guilty in U.S. District Court Friday. Hubbard was indicted Nov. 7 for allegedly lying to promoters he could secure Wonder's services for the Aug. 18 concert, which was supposed to benefit UH athletics.
Hubbard remains free on a $200,000 bond, which he secured by using his Charlotte nightclub as collateral.
Sean Barriero, 44 of Great Britain, pleaded Guilty Nov. 8 after he received a $200,000 wire transfer from UH that has yet to be recovered.
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