HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - The $700,000 settlement between the University of Hawaii and fired head basketball coach Gib Arnold is one of several costly contract disputes for the university over the last decade.
Since 2004, the university has paid $2.5 million to seven other departing coaches or executives.
"Everybody seems to get relieved of their duties at the university and they lawyer up and they always win," said State Rep. Isaac Choy, an accountant who chairs the State House higher education committee, which oversees UH.
"How many times do the people of Hawaii have to keep paying until we find out that there's a flaw in the management, a flaw in the process?" asked Choy.
The most recent payout was for $100,000 to Manoa Chancellor Tom Apple when he was terminated last year.
The two highest amounts were $600,000 to fired head football Coach Greg McMackin in 2011, and $1.05 million to UH President Evan Dobelle, who agreed to step down in 2004.
Former head basketball Coach Bob Nash received $240,000 in 2010. Ousted Athletics Director Herman Frazier was paid $312,000 in 2008, and in 2007, UH paid fired head basketball Coach Riley Wallace $200,000.
Arnold's 18-page contract had a rarely-used clause that said if UH fired him without cause, it would owe him whatever money it had paid him so far in the contract. That meant UH could have been on the hook for about $1.3 million, since Arnold had been basketball coach for about four years before being let go last fall.
Attorney Bruce Voss, an expert in employment law, said he's "looked at hundreds and hundreds of employment contracts ... and never seen a liquidated damages clause like this. It was just simply a mistake."
Choy, the state representative, said whoever oversaw Arnold's contract should be fired or disciplined.
"Somebody has to be responsible. They have to be responsible. Because this is not chump change on the table," Choy said.
But the top UH officials who signed the deal, former Athletics Director Jim Donovan and former Manoa Chancellor Virginia Hinshaw , have since been replaced, as well as Darolyn Lendio, UH's then-top attorney.
"If you don't have one good attorney in charge all the way through, mistakes will be made, and that's what happened here," Voss said.
"You have to have one competent, experienced attorney involved in the drafting process from beginning to end, someone who knows all the terms and changes before the contract is executed."
UH said it's doing just that and has assigned two in-house lawyers to be responsible for reviewing all athletic department contracts.
Carrie Okinaga, UH's new vice president for legal affairs and chief lawyer, who just started in June, will serve as a third pair of eyes reviewing all head coach contracts.
"I'm accountable," Okinaga said Thursday.
"We're working toward standardized language" in UH contracts, to avoid future problems, she added.