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Westfield State president faces no-confidence vote from faculty over spending probe

Evan Dobelle, president of Westfield State University.

Evan Dobelle, president of Westfield State University. Purchase photo reprints »

The Oct. 16 vote was scheduled after Dobelle missed a Thursday deadline to explain his spending on travel, which has been criticized by an outside auditor and state inspector general.

After Dobelle missed the deadline, state Higher Education Commissioner Richard Freeland froze $197,000 in university funding and recommended withholding another $2 million for a planned science center.

Buzz Hoagland, president of the faculty and librarian union, told reporters the union will present the vote results to the school’s board of trustees.

Dobelle spokesman George Regan said Dobelle plans to submit documents to Freeland on Monday and criticized Freeland’s decision to withhold school funding as “bizarre” and a revengeful attempt to “blackmail” the trustees instead of waiting two days for “a thoughtful, comprehensive response.”

According to the Associated Press, Dobelle’s request to extend the deadline to Monday was denied.

Freeland spokeswoman Katy Abel said the commissioner urged Dobelle “to provide these answers to the public without further delay.” She said Freeland hopes to work with Westfield trustees to resolve concerns about the university’s financial management and restore the funds.

Westfield State’s auditors reported in August that Dobelle and other top university officials violated travel and credit card policies. There was no allegation of fraud, but auditors said expense record-keeping was poor.

Dobelle, who has led Westfield State for six years, has said the spending was “strategically planned” and resulted in a significant return on investment for the university. He said any improper personal expenses were unintentional and were repaid. He also said use of credit cards followed past practices.

At a state Board of Higher Education meeting last month, Freeland told Westfield State trustees that Dobelle’s travel spending showed “a pattern of seemingly excessive and indulgent personal and professional expenses.”

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