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WSU President Responds to Inquiry by Higher Educ. Commissioner


(WGGB) — Westfield State President Evan Dobelle has responded to an inquiry from the state’s Higher Education Commissioner with regard to concerns over his spending.

In recent weeks, President Dobelle has been questioned about whether or not he’s spent thousands of university dollars on personal trips, hotels and dinners.

Last week, President Dobelle was supposed to reply to a letter sent by Higher Education Commissioner Richard Freeland, where Freeland asked for details on his spending.

Instead of meeting the Thursday deadline set by Freeland, Dobelle and his attorney, Ross Garber, asked for an extension until Monday – a move Freeland denied.

However, on Monday, a 20-page letter was given to Freeland, along with dozens of pages of information related to performance evaluations and travel expenses over the last five years.

“I told the truth. It was a practice of credit card use…where I would come back from a trip and reimburse the university. When I found out that was policy and not practice, I self-reported. I told the truth. I don’t mind criticism, but it has to be fair and it has to be balanced, and it’s been neither,” Dobelle says in a video statement, provided to ABC40 by Regan Communications.

George Regan, spokesperson for Dobelle, adds, “President Dobelle hopes for and expects fairness. Commissioner Freeland has already revealed his true political motives by telling the media he had no choice but to believe the allegations against President Dobelle without first taking the time to review this report. President Dobelle finds this rush to judgment disturbing and dangerous to the integrity of the due process system.”

Regan adds that the state should examine of “the motivations of Chairman Jack Flynn who conducted an illegal investigation while also pushing his own agenda” and asks that “Both Governor Patrick and Commissioner Freeland should wait until they review the facts before making derogatory statements against a successful and respected University president such as Mr. Dobelle.”

As a result of missing the deadline, Freeland ordered nearly $200,000 in grant funding be withheld and is asking the state to withhold another $2 million, which is slated for a new building on campus.

Meanwhile, when it comes to Dobelle’s alleged spending, Biology Department Chair Buzz Hoagland doesn’t think he’s equipped to continue running the school.

“Personally, no, I do not. From the information I’ve been able to obtain, the report, and through various conversations, I’m incapable of supporting the President to lead this university into the future,” says Hoagland.

As president of the Faculty and Librarian Union, Hoagland notes that they’ll be taking a vote ahead of a special extended meeting of the Board of Trustees.

“Come up with a way in which we can express the majority faculty/librarian opinion about Dobelle’s ability to lead this institution, and to that end, we are organizing a vote of confidence/no confidence,” Hoagland explains.

Hoagland says that he has no idea how the union will vote.

ABC40 reached out to members of the Board of Trustees, many of whom said they had no comment.

The board plans to meet again on October 16.

CLICK HERE to read the entire letter submitted by Dobelle and Garber

CLICK HERE to see the 64 pages of documents enclosed with that letter.

Dobelle’s video response is below:

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