HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - A day after embattled University of Hawaii President MRC Greenwood announced her plans to retire, UH observers said she had realized she was having a difficult time being effective.
Greenwood, 70, claimed she was stepping down not because of fallout from the failed UH fundraising Stevie Wonder concert, but to spend more time with her family, enjoy being a grandmother and tend to health issues.
But people had similar explanations on different corners of the UH Manoa campus when asked what the real reasons are for Greenwood retiring with two years remaining on her $475,000-a-year contract.
"I don't think anyone here are the university is really all that surprised about this announcement," said UH political science professor Colin Moore, an expert in government bureaucracies. "The disagreements she had with the legislature, particularly over the Wonder Blunder debacle, I think have made her a less-effective president. And I think she knows that."
Bonnyjean Manini, chair of the UH Manoa Faculty Senate, had a similar explanation.
"She does well nationally but she has been struggling locally, as we all could see with the state legislature. And I think that made it difficult for her to advocate on behalf of the University of Hawaii," Manini said. "I think she made the best decision for our institution and the state of Hawaii."
State Senate President Donna Mercado Kim (D-Kapalama, Kalihi Valley, Aiea) said, "Certainly there was a lot of pressure from the public and from legislature and it didn't help that she was absent here."
Greenwood showed up for only one heated budget briefing in the State Senate before the session began in January and never appeared before senators again, Kim said. In previous years, she was constantly meeting with lawmakers and testifying at hearings, Kim said.
"How can you be an effective president if you're not present and you're not part of the ongoing discussion?" Kim asked.
This year, lawmakers decided not fund $22 million in UH faculty raises, forcing UH to pay for them with tuition money and legislators cut another $7 million in funding for the flagship UH Manoa campus.
Legislators also removed Greenwood's power over UH construction projects. If Gov. Neil Abercrombie signs that bill into law, Greenwood will no longer be chief procurement officer. Instead, the administrator of the state's procurement office will oversee the awarding of UH construction contracts.
A second legislative proposal awaiting the governor's signature will remove Greenwood's authority to serve as president of the Research Corporation of the University of Hawaii, known as RCUH. Lawmakers complain UH hid some non-research related expenses, including at least on public relations contract, under RCUH.
The state Attorney General's office is investigating allegations of favoritism in UH contracts, with one contractor complaining the same contractors who are friends with the head of UH's Office of Capital Improvement Brian Minaai keep getting multi-million dollar UH construction jobs.
The new UH West Oahu project went millions over budget with more than 200 change orders and UH could not pay some construction contractors for months, until a special university bailout.
So Greenwood's budget and power were being diminished while the Board of Regents prepared this month to begin her annual evaluation process. The term of Board of Regents Chair Eric Martinson, who's been Greenwood's strong supporter, ends this month. A new chair will be chosen after that, as two new regents join the board and some existing regents have grown more sceptical of Greenwood's leadership.
"So I think maybe she feels that she is not as effective as she could be at this point," said Moore, the political science professor.
When Hawaii News Now asked UH Manoa Chancellor Tom Apple if Greenwood made the right decision to leave for the good of the university, he said, "We're obviously losing a very talented person but she's got other aspects of her life she wants to explore now and we all need to keep moving forward and keep the university moving forward."
"We've had a rough year," Apple added. "And there's been a lot of issues have come up in terms of expenditures of funds on the Wonder Blunder and things like that. And accountability. I think we're becoming a much better university through adversity."
Kim said Greenwood is not to blame for all the problems at the university.
"The regents make the policy," Kim said. "They set the tone, they set the standard and they have to hold the president accountable and they themselves have not been accountable. They themselves have not encouraged transparency. And I think they need to change their attitude and the culture and the president's attitude and culture will also change along the way."
Greenwood's tenure at UH began with controversy as well. In 2009 , two of three finalists for the UH president's job removed themselves from consideration, leaving Greenwood as the sole finalist. Hawaii News Now has learned the Board of Regents voted by a close vote of eight to seven not to re-open the presidential search process and consider only her for the president's job.
This is not the first time Greenwood has had management troubles.
According to the Santa Cruz Sentinel, in 2005, Greenwood resigned her post as academic provost of the University of California system. Her departure came after the Oakland Tribune reported she had hired a friend with whom she had owned property.
A UC investigation found Greenwood broke university conflict-of-interest rules by hiring the same woman in 2004 for a temporary position, the Oakland Tribune reported. A search committee later recommended the woman be appointed to another administrative position that Greenwood supervised.