HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - After a six-hour special hearing over the failed Stevie Wonder concert, state senators are still not satisfied. Among their frustrations is the fact that the school's former athletics director will still be collecting a hefty paycheck for several more years.
The legislative panel wanted to know why the university created a costly new marketing job for Jim Donovan instead of just letting his contract run out in March 2013.
"I was told that the university had put their last and best offer forward, and that was either to be bought out for no cause and I could sue the university for any damages I thought I had from the press conference or any other actions, or I could take the position that Chancellor Apple had talked to me about," Donovan testified.
"We really believed that our athletic department, the new coach, the things we needed to do to build our athletic department and to move forward, would be better served at that point after all of this drama and in the midst of all this drama by moving on," said University of Hawaii president MRC Greenwood.
During questioning, Greenwood told lawmakers that she received "strong advice" from Governor Neil Abercrombie based on concerns from Senate President Shan Tsutsui and House Speaker Calvin Say to reinstate Donovan, but that she decided that wasn't in the best interest of the university.
The governor's office issued this written response: "I stated very clearly to President Greenwood that my sole concern was for fairness and even-handedness. I based this concern as the Governor as well as an alumnus and supporter of the University of Hawaii. I also stressed that any and all decisions made in the wake of the concert failure ensure that all responsible parties be held to account."
Greenwood also testified that the school was already planning to look for a new athletics director prior to the Stevie Wonder concert mess. She cited "the WAC and Mac" -- wanting to leave the Western Athletic Conference and reducing the buyout for football coach Greg McMackin -- as two reasons she felt comfortable publicly discussing. Donovan gave another reason.
"I figure I might have irritated some people above me in the chain of command during the football search," he said.
Committee members asked Greenwood if she had overstepped any boundaries by getting involved with the football team's move to the Mountain West Conference.
"It's not overstepping when the Board (of Regents) that I report to asked me to take a specific action in the interest of the university to effect a change that has turned out to be the best choice," said Greenwood.
Lawmakers raised several concerns about unclear lines of authority. Donovan told them that former Board of Regents chair Howard Karr told him which coaches should be fired, moves he didn't necessarily follow.
"Does this bother you that these things are happening?" Sen. Donna Mercado Kim asked BOR chair Eric Martinson. "Sure," Martinson replied. "But you know they're happening, right?" questioned Mercado Kim. "Yes," said Martinson.
The lawmakers also criticized the Board's lack of leadership as an independent body, and said the regents didn't exercise their power to approve Donovan's settlement agreement.
"I felt it was disclosed. It was discussed. We got counsel. We trusted in the process," said Martinson.
UH officials contend it was not a settlement, but an agreement on Donovan's reassignment.
A second hearing is set for October 2, with possibly two more to follow.