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The University of Hawaiʻi was most likely a victim of a fraud in a failed effort to raise money for the UH Mānoa athletics department through a concert.
A detailed report by the Cades Schutte law firm investigators, identified as “factfinders” in excerpts from the report, was presented to the UH Board of Regents at its regular monthly meeting on August 22.
“Factfinders have not found any evidence that anyone at UH committed fraud,” the report said in its executive summary of findings. “It appears to Factfinders that all UH employees were motivated by a desire to help Athletics raise revenue.”
The fate of the missing $200,000 was referred to federal law enforcement.
“We are cooperating with the federal authorities in every possible way,” UH President M.R.C. Greenwood said. “We understand everyone wants to know where the money went and so do we. But the answer to the question awaits the work of the authorities.”
“The factfinders didn’t find any intentional misconduct among UH employees nor did they find that any employees benefited financially or otherwise as a result of the benefit concert,” Greenwood said. “We did document avoidable mistakes in judgment. We are correcting that by putting into place policies and procedures to prevent this from ever happening again.”
Greenwood said some employees will have their actions reviewed during annual performance evaluations. Employees involved in financial transactions will undergo additional training. Greenwood has also revoked a policy that provided the athletic department with significant delegation of authority in financial matters.
The report determined there was insufficient vetting of the local concert promoter and companies that represented themselves as agents of Stevie Wonder, one of which was wired $200,000 in proceeds from advance ticket sales.
UH leaders say this has been a challenging time for the university.
“We all understand that the UH athletic program is one that generates pride and excitement throughout Hawaiʻi, and our athletes have the ability to lift our state in so many ways,” said UH Mānoa Chancellor Tom Apple.
“This has been a sad episode for the University of Hawaiʻi, our fans and the public. We are sincerely sorry this happened,” Greenwood said. “It is understandable that some of our employees wanted to do something to help enhance the resources of the athletic department. We are grateful to those who stood with us, including the many faculty and students whose own achievements and success stories are being overshadowed by this controversy. With your help and understanding, we will emerge from this a stronger university.”
Read the statement from the UH Board of Regents issued August 22.
Read the news release issued August 22, which includes links to documents related to the investigation, including a copy of the redacted investigation report.