University releases spending receipts under former athletics director

By Catherine Cruz
Published On: Oct 10 2012 06:47:00 PM HST

Scrutiny increases over UH spending of private donor money

HONOLULU -

Scrutiny is increasing over the spending of private donor money under the tenure of former University of Hawaii at Manoa Athletics Director Jim Donovan.

The small rock garden outside of the athletics department at the lower Manoa campus is just one of the things that Donovan submitted receipts for.

It listed $1,300 for materials on a project that Donovan said included donated labor to give a facelift to a weed patch.

Sounds reasonable and looks nice enough, but is there more to the picture than meets the eye?

Is there more to the stacks of receipts released publicly, which included travel and meals for staff which Donovan said covered what public funding fell short on.

The foundation did reimburse many meals for donors and sponsors, a practice not unreasonable to further advance the UH Athletics program.

It also included meals for print and broadcast sports writers including KITV's.

A media watchdog group cautions about the practice.

"The journalist has to think for himself to accept even a lunch or friendly dinner from a source that I am going to cover.  You have to think 'I am going to cover this person, I have to assure the person that I can be fair.' How would that appear to the public that I was presumably serving.  It raises some serious questions," said Gerald Kato of the Hawaii Media Council.

And there are questions about the foundation's oversight.

It did reject a receipt for Neiman Marcus candy for the athletics office.

But in the stacks there is a Costco receipt for champagne sent to newspaper publisher Dennis Francis to congratulate him for the merger with the Honolulu Advertiser.

It was initially rejected, but when it was resubmitted, the justification was modified to say it was to encourage relations with the state's only daily paper and it was approved.

Donovan maintains the newspaper is a major corporate sponsor.

Under tenure, he says his efforts increased planned giving from $4 million to $11 million.

Was Donovan's spending out of line?  Should there be more Foundation oversight?

Kato’s take on it?  "The administrator needs to be careful in how you spend the money, whether it's public money or private money, It is still somebody else’s money,” said Kato.

And, getting back to that rock garden: the Home Depot receipts call for four pagodas and glue to anchor them securely.

But the pagodas are nowhere to be found.

Not a big ticket deal, but certainly something that begs for more scrutiny.

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