The University of Hawaii's Costly Fumble

Chad Blair/Civil Beat

University of Hawaii officials were grilled for more than six hours Monday in a hearing that sought answers on a Stevie Wonder fundraising concert that never was.

At issue was $200,000 in university money wired to a Florida concert promoter this summer who hasn't been heard from since, and how the UH handled the events leading up to the deal and the public-relations disaster that followed.

What school officials told lawmakers is that, while they didn't handle things as best they could and will try to do better next time, they largely defended their actions. That included not keeping Jim Donovan on as athletic director but giving him a $200,000 job handling school marketing.

In their view — especially UH President M.R.C. Greenwood — the concert fiasco was a rare misstep for a university that, as she put it, "does a lot of good."

What lawmakers told school officials, however, is that not only didn't they handle things well — their constituents are outraged over the "Wonder blunder" — they didn't follow policies, kept much of their actions behind closed doors and blurred proper lines of command. Demoting Donovan, they strongly implied, was not the right solution.

In their view — especially that of Sen. Donna Mercado Kim, chair of the newly formed Senate Special Committee on Accountability — what's at stake is the fundamental operation and reputation of the state's top institute of higher learning.

Civil Beat draws up talking points.

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