UH President Greenwood to keep her job - Hawaii News Now - KGMB and KHNL

UH President Greenwood to keep her job, apologizes for demand letter

M.R.C. Greenwood M.R.C. Greenwood
Eric Martinson Eric Martinson
JN Musto JN Musto
Stevie Wonder Stevie Wonder
KAHULUI, MAUI (HawaiiNewsNow) -

The University of Hawaii Board of Regents decided to retain UH President M.R.C. Greenwood Thursday and she apologized for sending them a letter demanding a $2 million buyout and threatening a defamation lawsuit.

Greenwood has come under fire for her handling of the UH's failed Stevie Wonder concert and its aftermath. 

In a statement released by the regents Thursday night, the regents said they and Greenwood "acknowledged that the concert fiasco and its aftermath created strains in the University's leadership."

"President Greenwood apologizes for having sent the letter to the Board of Regents, which she has since withdrawn, and has no plans to bring legal action against the university or the board," the statement said. "Soul-searching has led the Regents and the president to rededicate themselves to the University's unique role in educating the people of Hawaiiʻi as well as serving as a center for productive and innovative research." 

The regents discussed Greenwood's fate at a nearly three-and-a-half hour executive session meeting happened during their monthly meeting held at UH Maui College in Kahului.

The statement did not say whether the regents took a vote on whether to fire or retain Greenwood and if they did, what the vote's results were.  A UH spokeswoman said she did not know the answers to those questions.

"The Regents and the president share a conviction that autonomy and independence in governing its internal affairs are essential if the University is to carry out its mission. They agree that improved communication and transparency within the University's leadership is critical to avoiding future mishaps," the regents' statement said.

"The Regents are optimistic that under President Greenwood's leadership the University will correct the management failures highlighted by the Advisory Task Group Report on Operational and Financial Controls Improvement," which presented the first phase of its findings Thursday. 

The regents' statement pointed out improvements during Greenwood's leadership over the last three years, including improved graduation rates during a 50-percent increase in enrollment while the UH's 10 campuses dealt with state budget cuts.

As Hawaii News Now first reported Tuesday, Greenwood's lawyer, Jerry Hiatt, sent the regents a demand letter Oct. 2 saying Gov. Neil Abercrombie had pressured her to retain former UH Athletics Director Jim Donovan.  The letter claimed Abercrombie's Chief of Staff Bruce Coppa defamed her when he denied Abercrombie pressured her during a State Senate briefing earlier this fall.  Greenwood's letter also asked the regents for a $2 million settlement in exchange for her leaving the university, which she said she did not want to do.  Her lawyer rescinded the letter on Nov. 6.

During a break in the regents' meeting Thursday morning, Greenwood declined to comment on her demand letter and why she withdrew it. Greenwood again declined to speak to Hawaii News Now after Thursday's meeting, and Regents Chair Eric Martinson also declined an interview, saying a statement would be released later.

Sources said Greenwood's lawyer asked for but did not receive conditions for the withdrawal of her threat letter.  Some regents considered some of the conditions "unreasonable," a source said, since her lawyer asked for a 100-percent vote of confidence in Greenwood by the regents.  That's impossible, sources said, since roughly one third of the 15-member board does not support her.

JN Musto, executive director of UHPA, the university faculty union, reacted to the $2 million settlement offer Thursday.

"I can tell you, as far as the public is concerned, that was not a good strategy. Why?  Because it's too self-serving.  I mean, and I don't know what the purpose was.  Was the purpose to motivate or threaten?"

Greenwood is paid $429,000 a year, factoring in a 10 percent salary reduction that other UH employees have endured.  Her contract, which expires in July 2015, lists her salary as $475,000 a year.

Wednesday, State Sen. Donna Kim, who chaired senate briefings into the bungled concert, called the $2 million settlement offer "extortion."

The regents' Thursday executive session agenda included a discussion of Greenwood's 2012-2013 academic year goals, the first step in her fourth evaluation since she became university president.

It was unclear how much of the  closed-door session dealt with Greenwood, because the executive session agenda also scheduled to discuss ongoing litigation, the possible sale of UH West Oahu land to the Catholic Church and approval of a lease for a new bio safety lab in Kalaeloa.

The regents have held three other secret sessions of talks about whether to retain Greenwood this fall.  The board hired attorney Bill McCorriston to represent them in those discussions, on a contract worth up to $25,000.

Related Stories:

Greenwood asked for 100-percent confidence vote by regents

Exclusive: Not so fast! UH concert fraud suspect still in custody

Greenwood asked UH Regents for $2 million payout in demand letter

Copyright 2012 Hawaii News Now. All rights reserved.


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