How Dobelle Fleeced UH Regents

Bob Jones
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Wednesday - June 16, 2005
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I admired the UH regents last year when they threw bureaucratic fear to the wind and summarily fired president Evan Dobelle; to hell with his litigation torpedoes, full speed ahead.

Then came the final settlement with the man, and now that I’ve taken the time to look at all the paperwork I realize that the wily Dobelle snookered them.

He’s never signed the agreement on terms of the research project he’s supposed to do in return for $250,000 in salary over two fiscal years.

Quarter of a million dollars. That’s the highest professor salary — plus he qualifies for any increases that come through collective bargaining. 

He’s a non-tenured professor in the UH Department of Urban and Regional Planning through Aug. 14, 2006. He’s entitled to either a month’s leave with pay or a month’s vacation each year.

He’s also excused from the usual prohibition that you can’t hold an outside paid job while you’re drawing a UH salary. He has a paid job as chief executive of the New England Board of Higher Education.

I blame the UH regents for this sorry state of affairs.

They also agreed to let his unspecified research be approved and supervised by Manoa chancellor Peter Englert rather than the department chair. Englert’s the fellow Dobelle hired. See any conflict there?

We’re well into the first year of the settlement and Englert has never told Dobelle: “Get your butt over to my office and sign this research agreement!” He sent Dobelle a copy last Nov. 10. Dobelle had his wife phone Englert’s assistant, Jean Imada, and say the memo of agreement had arrived but, alas, Dobelle was out of town. Dobelle later e-mailed Englert that he saw no problem with “the paper,” as he called it, but he also didn’t sign and return it. It remains unsigned to this day.

To my query as to why that is, Dobelle replied by e-mail: “Thanks for asking. It has been requested that all inquiries regarding UH matters be referred to the university. My research is going very well.”

The e-mails on this topic between Dobelle and Englert (obtained by Keoki Kerr of KITV News) read like a social discussion. I don’t include Dobelle’s bitching about not being given an office, desk, computer, paid research assistant and paid secretary. The exchange begins with Dobelle, who uses lower case:

peter, trust this finds you well. i am sending this e-mail in case i need to go to the mainland wednesday night and cannot have our scheduled breakfast on thursday. evan.

Evan, I will be back on Thursday and stay in town until end of August. We should be able to sort all this out in a timely fashion. Look forward to seeing you soon. Peter.

peter, i need to leave for the mainland wednesday night ... trust germany and other travels went well. evan.

Evan, It was good to talk with you this morning. Is 11:30 am to 1 pm lunch at the Hau Tree Lanai doable…? Peter.

peter, good morning. happy new year, too. what time would you like to visit on the 21st? breakfast? drink after hours? thanks. evan

Evan, Looking forward to meeting you on Friday. Prefer to meet in evening after hours over a glass of wine or .... Let me know when and where. Peter

peter. how about 5 p.m. at the new otani? thanks. evan.

Englert wrote Dobelle on Nov. 10, 2004 that he expected Dobelle’s first research report on or before Dec. 31 of last year.

On Nov. 21, there was a phone message from Dobelle to Englert’s assistant that Dobelle was away on travel, still doesn’t have an office or a research assistant, did get a laptop computer, the phone was installed and that his calling cards finally came in.

But Dobelle’s one-and-a-half page “report” with numerous grammar errors didn’t arrive at Englert’s office until May. There was no manuscript outline, no target dates for initial drafts and no target date for completion.

It begins to look as if the regents okayed that $250,000 research payout more as a way to sell the huge settlement cost to the taxpayers.

We’d have been better served if they’d just told us “it’s going to take something over a million dollars to make Dobelle go away without a long and expensive lawsuit with an uncertain outcome. We’re just going to give him the money.”

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