Donovan Fall Guy For UH Problems

UH chancellor Tom Apple has so far not been able to provide a job title for Jim Donovan’s new position within the university.

Here’s one: scapegoat.

That may not have been Apple’s intent at last week’s ill-conceived press conference, where he announced that regardless of the investigation, which cleared Donovan of any wrongdoing in the Stevie Wonder concert scandal, UH was going to begin shopping for a new athletics director. Coming on the heels of Donovan’s paid suspension, the move clearly points to Donovan as the fall guy.

Apple called Donovan a smart and talented administrator. When asked if others may be reassigned or punished in any way, Apple said he believes the investigation will reveal procedural and oversight problems that will require tightening. Sounds like a recipe for whitewash, if you ask me.

That has been the concern since the story first broke – that the money won’t be recovered, no one on upper campus would be found responsible, and a patsy would be identified. So far, checkmate for the administration.

But why would Donovan accept hardly hidden blame for a situation that went at least as high as former chancellor Virginia Hinshaw? In a July 17 story on Hawaii News Now, Hinshaw admitted to being briefed on the concert. The story also stated UH’s chief financial officer Howard Todo approved wiring the $200,000 to Epic-Talent in Miami.

There are a handful of people who know how everything went down. Donovan is one of them. The information he holds could be embarrassing to those in Hawaii Hall. So, to keep the peace, Donovan is moved to a quieter position on campus and given a three-year contract. Donovan, who has worked at the university for 22 years, is three years short of retiring with full health benefits. Get it? Donovan falls on the sword, upper campus administrators get to hide behind vague claims of procedural inefficiency and Donovan retires with full state benefits. Still, questions remain. An email to Apple questioning whether the new position violates state and university hiring practices by not opening the process to other applicants went unanswered. What did UH get for this new three-year investment? A darn good administrator and fundraiser, if you believe Apple. On this point, I agree.

The job of athletics director is perhaps the toughest assignment at UH. Whoever gets the job must deal with severe financial restrictions and a meddling bureaucracy that bogs down simple decisions in a mire of self-interest. Against such odds, Donovan repaired much of the damage inflicted by his predecessor and has helped UH move forward by securing state funding for a number of much-needed projects.

But all this cloak-and-dagger stuff just hides the real problem – that the state’s flagship university remains a closed institution where transparency is treated as something to be avoided, and spending decisions are made with little or no accountability.