The problems facing former Trinity College President Evan Dobelle from his time as president at Westfield (Mass.) State are far from over. The board of trustees has voted to send a report by the Massachusetts Inspector General to a whole host of state and federal oversight agencies. The report found Dobelle ran up some $450,000 charges to university credit cards. One trustee is even looking for a criminal complaint against Dobelle.
The board voted to send a letter to among others, the U.S. Attorney General’s Office, the Internal Revenue Service, the state Ethics Commission, the Hampden County District Attorney’s Office, and the state Retirement Board, asking each to look into the issues stemming from the report.
The inspector general found multiple instances of improper spending by Dobelle during his time as Westfield State’s top guy (2007-2013) including “multiple personal vacations” on the school’s dime. The report noted Dobelle took a trip with family and friends to Cuba in 2013, a trip to Asia accompanied by 10 people, and 17 trips to San Francisco where he was president and chancellor of City College of San Francisco from 1990 to 1995.
Other instances of questionable spending detailed in the report include $3,000 in tickets to the Boston Symphony Orchestra, and an unexplained $8,000 wire transfer to Vietnam.
Dobelle’s defense has always been that the expenditures were made in the pursuit of improving the university. The board isn’t buying it.
University trustee Luis Perez tells the MassLive website, “There is enough here to look at a criminal complaint…It is a faster way to get restitution than looking at the civil side.”
However Dobelle’s attorney Ross Garber, who was a former attorney for disgraced Connecticut Gov. John Rowland, says the board is out to get Dobelle. “Certainly anyone who wants to will look at these reports, but a responsible regulator or law enforcement official will recognize the inspector general’s report is a one-sided document that doesn’t include any input from Dr. Dobelle and sophisticated law enforcement authorities will certainly look at all sides of the issue,” Garber said to MassLive.
Dobelle’s apparent free-spending ways are nothing new. His troubles when he was president of the University of Hawaii are well documented although that situation was settled with neither side admitting wrongdoing and Dobelle walking away with some serious cash and benefits.
Dobelle is known for more than his alleged spending excesses. In every stop in his career, he succeeded in bettering the institution for which he worked. For instance, during his time at Trinity (1995-2001) he turned around declining enrollment with his personal involvement in neighborhood renewal. Westfield went from “college” to “university” in his time there. There’s even a library named after him at Middlesex Community College in Lowell, Mass.