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MANOA (HawaiiNewsNow) – Just a day after the embarrassing announcement that a University of Hawaii athletics fundraising concert featuring Stevie Wonder was canceled, the UH placed Athletics Director Jim Donovan on paid leave and began an investigation into the botched event.
UH officials said they've gone to the FBI for help in getting back a $200,000 deposit of UH funds wired to an agent in Miami.
UH Manoa Chancellor Tom Apple put Donovan and the manager of the Stan Sheriff Center, Rich Sheriff, on paid leave Wednesday. The two men were escorted to their offices and allowed to pack one box of their belongings before turning in their keys and leaving, a source said.
Donovan approved the concert deal without the knowledge of UH President MRC Greenwood and Sheriff was the contact with the promoter who did the deal, sources said.
"I am angered and appalled and this is not going to happen at the University of Hawaii again," Greenwood said during a 4:30 p.m. news conference in front of Hawaii Hall at UH Manoa on Wednesday.
UH Vice President for Student Affairs Rockne Freitas will serve as acting athletics director. Freitas said his priorities include "cleaning up the policies and procedures" in the department while "looking for any smoking guns."
The UH plans to hire an independent investigator to look into the botched concert.
"We're gonna do a full investigation of this. It will be done by an external investigator," Apple said. "Our goal is to strengthen those policies and procedures so that we can better serve our students and the public."
Apple said he did not know how much the investigation will cost, how long it will take, and whether all the results of the probe will be made public.
Associate Athletic Director Carl Clapp signed the contract with local promoter Bob Peyton on behalf of Donovan, who was out of town when the contract was signed, a source said. Hawaii News Now has asked the UH for a copy of the concert contract but had not received an official response as of early Wednesday evening.
UH lawyers reviewed the concert contract and approved its language, according to the source.
A source added that UH Vice President for Budget and Fiscal services and Chief Financial Officer Howard Todo authorized the wire transfer of $200,000 in UH athletic department funds to Epic-Talent, a talent agency in Miami, money the UH has been unable to recover.
Hawaii News Now called and emailed Epic-Talent Wednesday and did not hear back from a company representative.
Sources said UH officials have been unable to get a response from the talent company either, which is why they've called the FBI.
Peyton told Hawaii News Now he negotiated for the Stevie Wonder concert on UH's behalf with the Epic-Talent booking agency.
Peyton said UH wired $200,000 to Epic-Talent's escrow account and he wired another $50,000 of his own money to the company.
Peyton released a letter quoting from the concert contract that said, "If, at any point until the performance is complete, all the funds deposited and/or dispersed shall be 100 percent refundable (minus escrow fees) if the default is the responsibility of the artist."
On Tuesday, Donovan said UH was canceling the concert because Wonder's agent -- Creative Artists Agency -- said he wasn't available on that date.
Top UH officials, including Apple and Donovan met with Greenwood at Bachman Hall on the Manoa campus Tuesday afternoon to try to sort out the concert problem.
Peyton said he told them at that meeting he never agreed to canceling the Stevie Wonder show.
Peyton said UH officials called him from that meeting and "I made it clear that CAA -- (Creative Artists Agency) -- was not a party to this booking. They said that the UH would not cancel the show."
However, Peyton said a short time later, he began getting phone calls that UH had canceled the concert.
"I have been doing concerts in Hawaii for over 40 years and my reputation is dear to me," said Peyton, adding that he has not scammed the UH.
He said his company promoted the last public show that Wonder did in Honolulu.
Peyton said he will "work to get this show ... and its worthy cause ... back on track."
About 6,000 people bought seats since tickets went on sale to the public last Friday and UH expected a sellout of up to 11,000 concert goers.
UH officials said Wednesday it had processed refunds for about 95 percent of ticket holders and customers who purchased tickets by credit card would see refunds to their accounts within seven days.
UH athletic officials had hoped the concert would raise up to $250,000 for the athletic program, which is in the red, but now UH could lose a $200,000 deposit it paid for the event that fell through.