UH Regents to reconsider Donovan settlement at special Nov. 7 meeting

UH Regents to reconsider Donovan settlement at special Nov. 7 meeting

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - The University of Hawaii Board of Regents will hold a special meeting  Nov. 7 to revisit the controversial agreement that gave Jim Donovan a UH communications job but removed him as the university's athletics director.

The regents will meet the day after Election Day to go over an audit of the UH athletics department during Donovan's leadership. The full board will also discuss Donovan's deal that averted a threatened lawsuit but gave him a lucrative UH public relations position for three years, according to an agenda posted late Thursday afternoon on the regents' web site.

The meeting will be held at 12 p.m. Nov. 7 at the UH Campus Center Ballroom. The regents will also discuss the future of UH President M.R.C. Greenwood in executive session.  Sources said the regents have hired attorney Bill McCorriston to represent them as they decide whether to terminate Greenwood, whose lawyer has sent regents a letter asking them to either support her in public or begin discussions for her to leave the university.

As Hawaii News Now first reported Oct. 23, the regents made the decision to discuss reconsidering the Donovan settlement during a closed-door executive session Oct. 18, in what sources described as a "close vote."

The regents plan to talk about whether they properly approved the settlement, since the deal never went before a full vote of the regents, sources said.

The regents could also reconsider and reject the settlement, sources said, and possibly temporarily reinstate Donovan as athletics director until his former AD contract expires March 23, 2013.  A source said while restoring Donovan to his old job is a possibility, it's "doubtful."

If the regents reject the deal, Donovan's lawyer could sue the UH and the rejection could be seen as showing a lack of confidence in Greenwood and UH Regents Chairman Eric Martinson, who OK'd the agreement.  A slight majority of regents favors rejecting Donovan's agreement as of late Thursday afternoon, a UH source said, but that situation could change in the days ahead, the source said.

Donovan and his attorney, David Simons, declined to comment Thursday.

Some regents wanted to hold a special meeting on the subject before the regents' next regular meeting on Nov. 15, which will be held at UH Maui, a source said.  That's because those regents don't want to be criticized for trying to hide the issue by discussing it on a neighbor island where they would get less media coverage, a source added.

The agenda posted Thursday afternoon shows that Donovan's matter will be discussed behind closed doors and in open session next Wednesday.

The UH put Donovan on paid leave as athletic director July 11, when it began investigating the canceled Stevie Wonder concert. Five days later, his lawyer threatened to sue the university for defamation if school officials did not reinstate him as AD.

Donovan told state senators last month it was clear UH officials were trying to avoid a vote by the Board of Regents in settling his case.

"It was stated that the position could not be longer than three years because the president had authority to sign for up to three years, but anything longer than three years would take board action," Donovan during in a State Senate briefing on Oct. 2.

On August 11, Donovan and Greenwood signed an agreement document that said he would not sue UH in exchange for the university giving him a three-year appointment for a $211,000-a-year communications job in the Manoa chancellor's office and $30,000 in legal fees for his attorney. Donovan's lawyer had asked UH to appoint him a vice chancellor at UH Manoa for five years, retaining his AD's salary of $240,000 a year during that period, a deal which was not approved.

James Lee, vice chair of the UH Board of Regents, told senators on Oct. 2: "I think it was good it was settled.  But I think the part, with respect to his new position, that was a reassignment.  And that was following board policy." Lee told senators he personally did not agree with re-assigning Donovan to the communications job.

Lee -- who's also a lawyer -- said UH lawyers opined that the deal did not require a vote of the full regents because the only amount of money directly tied to the deal was $30,000 in legal fees, so it was less than the $500,000 threshold requiring a vote of all 15 regents. The regents did not count Donovan's salary in making the determination if a vote of the full board was required, Lee said.

State Sen. Donna Kim, who chaired the Senate's Special Committee on Accountability, has questioned whether the agreement is binding, because it was never approved by the regents, in violation of the regents' policies.

Kim received an opinion from the state Attorney General's office that said his salary should have been calculated as part of the deal.

"As a settlement agreement exceeding $500,000, the Jim Donovan settlement agreement required the approval of the BOR [Board of Regents], according to the BOR's policies," said the opinion by Russell Suzuki, the first deputy attorney general.

"We believe the memorandum and agreement is a settlement agreement because it is an arm's length settlement that was negotiated through legal counsel and resolved a legal dispute," Suzuki wrote.

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