By Wendy Osher
A Senate hearing on what is being called the “Wonder Blunder” in public circles, is sparking new conversations on accountability at the University of Hawai’i.
The briefing was the first in a series of meetings to discuss the university’s failed Stevie Wonder Concert fundraiser, and look into oversight, accountability and transparency at UH. The committee will also review the operational and financial management of the UH system.
The Special Committee on Accountability, led by Senator Donna Mercado Kim, was convened in response to the public’s concern over the incident.
She expressed gratitude and frustration at the findings from yesterday’s briefing saying, “I am pleased that those who were asked to come before the committee came to the briefing to answer our questions. Although we appreciate their attendance, it was frustrating to hear that many policy and procedures that are in place were not followed.”
“I hope the public got some of their questions and concerns addressed through the briefing. Moving forward, we hope the university will work to restore the public’s trust and confidence,” she added.
At yesterday’s meeting the committee discussed contracts with law firms retained by the university for the investigation into the failed concert; the timeline of events that led to the failed concert; as well as events leading to the removal of Jim Donovan from his post as UH’s athletics director.
Among those in attendance that testified before the committee were: M.R.C. Greenwood, president; Jim Donovan, former athletics director; Dennis Chong Kee of Cades Schutte law firm; “fact finders” into the failed concert to raise money for UH Manoa Athletics department; and Eric Martinson, chair of the University of Hawaii Board of Regents.
The committee also received written testimony from university faculty members, students, and the public, many of which expressed support for the informational briefing in order to shed light on the issue.
Governor Neil Abercrombie released a statement following the briefing, after he said testimony suggested that he offered advice regarding the UH athletic director position.
“I stated very clearly to President Greenwood that my sole concern was for fairness and even-handedness. I based this concern as the governor as well as an alumnus and supporter of the University of Hawai’i. I also stressed that any and all decisions made in the wake of the concert failure ensure that all responsible parties be held to account.”
The next informational briefing is tentatively set for October 2, 2012.