County Fare: Local tabs on Dobelle expenses
Pittsfield resident and former mayor Evan Dobelle, under fire at Westfield State University, was running up expenses -- many of them since paid back -- on the university's credit cards, according to an accounting firm's review.
Dobelle, who has justified the spending as necessary to attract donors and raise the profile of the former state college, hosted a $3,503 reception for Berkshire County guidance counselors in October 2008, according to the financial review detailed in the Boston Globe.
Other area spending included $12,409 in Tanglewood tickets over two seasons in 2009 and 2010 and $1,190 in ducats for Shakespeare & Company in Lenox.
Dobelle, who was elected mayor of Pittsfield twice in 1973 and 1975, also hosted a dinner with former Gov. Jane Swift and others at the noted West Stockbridge restaurant Rouge in August 2009. The tab: $621.
In May 2012, he put up a personal friend, former George Washington University president Stephen Trachtenberg, at the posh Wheatleigh Inn in Stockbridge, where rooms average $900 a night.
The review uncovered more than $100,000 in questionable expenses and personal charges on three university credit cards over five years. Dobelle has blasted the report as illegal and defamatory because the university's full board of trustees did not approve it in advance.
The board is reported to be divided over Dobelle's future and has put off any action until next month. Attorney General Martha Coakley is conducting an investigation.
According to the Chronicle of Higher Education, when Dobelle served as president of the University of Hawaii from 2001 and 2004, he was accused of lavish spending on travel, cronyism in hiring, overpaying administrators, taking too much credit for the university's improved enrollment and funding, and politicizing the campus by endorsing a candidate for governor.
Initially, he was fired for cause on June 15, 2004, but the university rescinded the action as part of a mediated agreement resulting in Dobelle's resignation from the presidency.
The university gave him a two-year non-tenured research post and a $1.6 million cash settlement, a lifetime state pension and a $2 million life-insurance policy, paid in full. The agreement also covered legal costs of $1.2 million (Dobelle had been preparing to file a lawsuit) and found no wrongdoing by Dobelle or the Board of Regents.
Fundraiser underway: Two Dalton residents, Maggy Walto and Paige Emerson, are looking to support a Berkshire County basketball family which was tragically affected by an Aug. 17 house fire in Pittsfield.
They have organized a raffle fundraiser and are also accepting monetary donations to help support basketball player Sedale Jones and his mother, Judi Jones, at this time.
Raffle tickets are $5. Prizes include a $100 Choice Tours gift certificate, a $50 Visa gift certificate, a $30 Applebees gift certificate, and a $25 Regal Cinema gift certificate. The drawing will be held Oct. 1. Proceeds will go to Judi and Sedale Jones.
For more information, to purchase raffle tickets or to make a donation, contact Maggy Walto at (413) 626-7480.
Fire Cider nominated for award: Fire Cider, "a spicy, sweet, tangy health tonic" produced in Pittsfield by Shire City Herbals, is a nominee for the Martha Stewart American Made 2013 Awards.
People can vote for their favorite products and producers in the contest up to six times a day, every day between now and Sept. 13. Finalists will be selected for another round of public voting, and the grand prize winner from that round will earn $10,000.
Each vote also enters the voter into a weekly drawing to win a book signed by Martha Stewart, American Express gift cards, or other prizes.
Incorporated in 2011, Shire City Herbals is a family business co-owned by Amy Huebner, Dana St. Pierre and Brian Huebner.
To vote for Fire Cider and to look at other nominees, visit http://martha.ms/14PGDgB. To learn more about Shire City Herbals, visit http://firecider.com.
County Fare, a weekly column featuring "tales from throughout the Berkshires," is compiled by Eagle staffers.
TALK TO US
If you'd like to leave a comment (or a tip or a question) about this story with the editors, please email us. We also welcome letters to the editor for publication; you can do that by filling out our letters form and submitting it to the newsroom.