Donovan threatened to sue UH - Ka Leo O Hawaii: NEWS

Donovan threatened to sue UH

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Posted: Friday, August 24, 2012 5:00 am

The University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa has created a $211,200 job in the wake of the Stevie Wonder concert fiasco for former athletic director Jim Donovan to keep him from suing the university for defamation of character after he was placed on paid administrative leave. 

In an Aug. 11 memorandum to Donovan, Chancellor Thomas Apple agreed to reassign him from the athletics department to the Office of the Chancellor. His new title will tentatively be director of external affairs and community relations, and he will report directly to Apple. 

Donovan’s new responsibilities, according to Apple, will include “enhancing the University’s missions, including its land grant mission, marketing and branding, promotion [and] community communications and outreach for UH.”

Apple stated that he will recommend that Donovan be given a three-year contract with a $211,200 yearly salary that will begin after his current contract expires on March 23. Donovan made $240,000 per year as AD. In return, Donovan must waive all rights to sue the university in regards to the Wonder debacle.

The memorandum was released to the public on Thursday.


Donovan and Stan Sheriff arena manager Rich Sheriff had been placed on paid administrative leave on July 11, shortly after it was revealed that the university had booked the concert through an agency unaffiliated with Wonder. The university paid out $200,000 as a concert deposit to an unverified account. 

Although the school did seek FBI assistance to track down the money, UH conducted its own independent investigation into the scandal. Factfinders Dennis Chong Kee and Calvert Chipchase submitted their report to the Board of Regents on Aug. 21, exonerating university personnel, including Donovan and Sheriff, from blame.

The $200,000 deposit has yet to be recovered.


In a July 16 letter to Apple and UH system President M.R.C. Greenwood obtained by KHON TV, Donovan’s attorney David Simons claimed that the university’s “… public suspension of Mr. Donovan [for the Stevie Wonder concert incident] defamed him and ruined his reputation,” further insisting that Donovan was made a “scapegoat for what was a systemic problem.” 

Simons wrote, “Because this matter was embarrassing to both [Greenwood and Apple]; you panicked and acted peremptorily to suspend Jim in order to deflect criticism from yourselves. … You suspended Mr. Donovan even though the facts that were known to you at the time of suspension made it clear he was not responsible for the possible $200,000 loss and had engaged in no personal misconduct. 

“Worse, you not only suspended him, but you also ordered him to stay silent so he could not let people know the truth, while you held a press conference at which you defamed and humiliated him.”

Simons claimed that the university’s actions were in direct violation of UH Human Resources and legal policy regarding the release of information for pending investigations, and that Donovan’s contract and constitutional rights had also been violated. 

Simons threatened to sue the university if Donovan was not reinstated by July 19. 

UH will pay Donovan’s $30,000 in legal fees as part of the agreement. 


According to the investigative report, released by the Board of Regents early Wednesday evening, Donovan was only minimally involved with the concert. Although he was the one who approved the event and did review the agreement, he had “little involvement and provided little oversight.” 

He was not included on emails regarding the transfer of the now-lost $200,000 deposit.

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