Westfield State Trustees Choose Interim President, Discuss Dobelle Spending
WESTFIELD, Mass. (WGGB) — The Westfield State Board of Trustees met for the first time since hiring a Boston firm to investigate spending practices by former President Evan Dobelle.
The board opted not to release the results of the private investigation, instead saying investigations by the Attorney General and Office of Inspector General will continue at the state level.
“The additional report was asked for in terms of an employment decision,” Chairman of the Board Jack Flynn said. “That employment decision is now a mute because President Dobelle Resigned November 8th.”
Flynn did say that under Dobelle, about 40 credit cards were being used. That number has now been dropped to 32 and Flynn wants to see that number trickle down to only a handful of credit cards being used by employees. Flynn thinks a greater reliance on purchase cards for employees would be more practical.
“They are a limited but useful tool, in terms of providing folks the opportunity to get what they need without having the flexibility that comes with having a standard credit card,” Flynn said.
The board also unanimously named current acting president, Dr. Elizabeth Preston, interim president. Flynn doesn’t expect a permanent president to be named for at least a year, but adds that after a tumultuous few months with Dobelle, Westfield needs to slowly get back to normal.
“Listen, we have a little bit of work to do here before we go jumping into a search process,” Flynn said. “I think we need to let current Interim President Preston get settled. I would like to see some of these investigations get closed up and put behind us and you know, be able to talk to candidates without a lot of this stuff happening.”
President Dobelle billed Westfield State for lawyer fees he incurred after having to hire Hartford lawyer Ross Garber to represent him. The board sent that request to the state, as well, to get an answer if in fact Westfield would have to pay those fees.
A full report on use of credit cards at Westfield State will be announced at the December 12th trustees meeting.
From January 2011 to present, Preston served as Vice President of Academic Affairs (VPAA), the second-highest ranking leadership position at the university.
“Liz Preston is a true servant-leader. She has come up through the ranks as a faculty member and administrator who is widely regarded as a consensus builder,” said John Flynn, chair, Westfield State University Board of Trustees. “She understands Westfield State and the Massachusetts state university system and her skills will not only keep us on course but will enable us to move forward as an institution.”
Her 24-year academic career at Westfield State includes faculty, administrative, and service positions and as VPAA, Preston was chief academic officer responsible for providing leadership and oversight of the university’s academic departments and programs.
“Westfield State has an extremely long and proud history of which I am honored to be a part,” said Preston. “I look forward to supporting the faculty, staff, and students as this new chapter in our history begins.”
Preston holds both a Ph.D. and a Master’s degree in Communication from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. She graduated cum laude with departmental honors with a Bachelor’s of Arts degree in English from Bates College in Lewiston, ME.
The trustees’ action will require ratification from the Massachusetts Board of Higher Education.