Senator Donna Mercado Kim, Vice Chair of the Hawaii State Senate and Chair of the Senate Special Committee on Accountability
By Senator Donna Mercado Kim
The Senate Committee on Accountability recently held two hearings to shed light on the failed concert fund raising attempt by the UH Athletic Department. In the wake of the UH administration and Board of Regents’ unwillingness or reluctance to explain what had happened to a confused and frustrated public, we gave the Regents, President M.R.C. Greenwood, Chancellor Tom Apple, Jim Donovan, and Rich Sheriff an opportunity to clear the air. Our hearings were open to the public and televised live.
Neither myself nor any of my Senate colleagues called for Dr. Greenwood’s dismissal. In fact, it was made clear at the onset of the hearings that our purpose was to simply bring openness and accountability to UH governance, qualities that had been sorely lacking during this unfortunate event.
The recent action of the BOR to review Dr. Greenwood’s contract has many speculating that it was due to “political pressure.” The Regents should have been forthcoming with the public that it was Dr. Greenwood’s attorney who demanded that the BOR give her a vote of confidence or “buy out” her contract, which then forced them to hold a private meeting and hire their own attorney to advise them.
President Greenwood and her PR consultants have cleverly twisted the issue of accountability into an issue of “political interference and micromanagement.” Yet, she testified at our hearings that no one ordered her to create the $200,000 new position for Jim Donovan and that the governor only provided advice that she had solicited.
It should be noted that Dr. Greenwood has been very visible at the Legislature during her tenure, more so than any recent UH leader. When I was Ways and Means Committee chair, she called often for my counsel on myriad UH concerns. It’s ironic that she’s now construing well-meaning advice to be inappropriate political meddling.
The President needs to take responsibility for what has happened at the UH rather than deflect blame with innuendos of her being the victim of a “campaign of false statements.” Please, President, in the interest of openness, elaborate on these so-called false statements.
Honolulu Star-Advertiser columnist David Shapiro’s assertion on this matter regarding my disagreement with former UH President Evan Dobelle was vintage Shapiro: a cynical half-truth. What riled legislators, and UH insiders, was that Dr. Dobelle squandered $1 million for renovations to College Hill, pledged to raise private funds to deflect criticism, and failed to do so. He promised and failed to raise $150 million in private funds for the Kaka‘ako medical school. He appointed friends or former associates to highly paid UH positions and hired others as consultants. I was very candid about these problems in a report, entitled “Dangerous Equations,” which I co-authored with Dr. Amy Agbayani, Dr. Ralph Moberly, and State Rep. Mark Takai.
Personally, I feel that President Greenwood should be retained and held accountable to correct the UH’s problems. While I can’t speak for other legislators, I can tell you unequivocally that there’s been no call from the Senate committee to remove President Greenwood or interfere with the school’s autonomy.
However, what we do demand is openness and accountability from the UH administration and Board of Regents. As public servants entrusted with overseeing the state’s only institution of higher learning, they have a moral and legal responsibility to uphold the law and the oath they took. We expect no more and no less.
Posted by Hawaii Senate Majority Caucus