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UPDATE: Regents, Greenwood Say Relationship ‘Strong’

Posted November 15, 2012, 02:41 PM HST Updated November 16, 2012, 10:37 AM HST
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University of Hawaii President M.R.C. Greenwood. UH photo.

The University of Hawaii Board of Regents and university President M.R.C. Greenwood have resolved their differences, university spokespersons said Thursday night.

The university released a statement at 9:30 p.m. Thursday saying that “their partnership to achieve ever higher standards of academic excellence throughout the UH system will continue and remains strong.”

The statement was issued following a meeting on Maui during which regents met behind closed doors to discuss Greenwood’s employment contract.

The brouhaha began in July when the university was scammed out of $200,000 by a man who falsely claimed he represented Stevie Wonder who would perform at a fundraiser for the athletic department.

That resulted in UH Athletic Director Jim Donovan being placed on paid administrative leave. He was later moved to a newly created position at UH-Manoa.

Greenwood’s attorney in turn sent a letter to the regents demanding that she be paid $2 million if she were to be released from her contract which ends in 2015. The letter was withdrawn last week.

The letter claimed that Greenwood had been pressured by Gov. Neil Abercrombie to reinstate Donovan to his position as athletic director. Through a spokeswoman, Abercrombie has denied trying to influence Greenwood and said he “suggested options” in response to requests from Greenwood for advice.

At a special meeting held on Nov. 7, regents approved Donovan’s reassignment. It also reviewed an internal audit of the athletics department, saying in a statement released to the media that “significant changes in policies, procedures and oversight are being implemented” to prevent future occurrences of incidents such as the Wonder concert debacle.

The audit, which was released to the public Thursday, found that numerous faults contributed to what has become to be known as the “Wonder Blunder,” including a lack of written rules and procedures. But it also laid much of the blame on Donovan and athletics arena director Rich Sheriff.

A North Carolina man arrested in connection with the Wonder scam is scheduled to be arraigned on a fraud charge Nov. 23 in US District Court in Honolulu. A Miami resident has also pleaded guilty last week to a federal charge related to the handling of the $200,000.

In early October a state Senate panel investigating the matter estimated that including attorneys fees the debacle had cost the university more than $1.3 million. None of the $200,000 wired by the university to the bogus promoters was ever recovered.

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Thursday night’s statement said both the regents and Greenwood “acknowledged that the concert fiasco and its aftermath created strains in the University’s leadership.”

“President Greenwood apologizes for having sent the letter to the Board of Regents, which she has since withdrawn, and has no plans to bring legal action against the university or the board,” the statement said.

“Soul-searching has led the regents and the president to rededicate themselves to the University’s unique role in educating the people of Hawai’i as well as serving as a center for productive and innovative research.”

The statement said that “improved communication and transparency within the University’s leadership is critical to avoiding future mishaps.”

The statement follows Thursday’s announcement that Greenwood will hold a series of 10 community meetings around the state, including two on the Big Island.

The meetings start today at Honolulu Community College and will include one on Monday at the University of Hawaii at Hilo.

Monday’s meeting is scheduled for 4:30 to 6 p.m. at room UCB 127, located near UH-Hilo’s main entrance on West Kawili Street.

The final meeting will be held in Kona Jan. 9 from 4-5:30 p.m., at Hawaii Community College-West Hawaii in Kealakekua.

The purpose of the meetings is to invite the university community and the public to “talk story” about UH and its future, officials said.

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