Former Westfield State President Evan Dobelle sued for alleged misuse of school funds
BOSTON - Former Westfield State University President Evan Dobelle has been sued for allegedly using school-issued credit cards and school funds to make personal purchases and take vacations costing nearly $100,000.
Dobelle, a former Pittsfield mayor who still lives in the city, knowingly submitted to WSU false claims for payment of personal expenses totaling at least $59,000, according to the complaint, filed in Suffolk Superior Court on Thursday by Attorney General Martha Coakley's office.
The complaint also alleges Dobelle made at least $39,000 worth of travel requests, falsely stating those trips were for official university business.
These actions are in violation of the state's False Claims Act, Dobelle's employment contract, applicable university policies, and the state's conflict of interest law.
"We allege the former president of this university blatantly misused public funds for trips that were nothing but weeklong vacations with family and friends," Coakley said in a prepared release. "This pattern of inappropriately spending state money is unacceptable, as leaders of public schools should be enforcing their policies instead of knowingly violating them for their own personal benefit."
Dobelle, 68, served as WSU president from January 2008 until his resignation in November 2013.
He was twice elected mayor of Pittsfield in 1973 and 1975. Dobelle was 28 when he was elected mayor the first time, the youngest person to hold that office in city history.
Among the expenses cited were family trips to Cuba, meals at high- end restaurants, and frequent gatherings at a private men's social club in California.
The action comes a week after a report by the Massachusetts Office of the Inspector General concluded that Dobelle had racked up tens of thousands of dollars in personal expenses and travel costs on university credit cards and misrepresented much of the spending as university-related business.
The lawsuit seeks damages, civil penalties, costs and attorney's fees associated with the ongoing investigation, and the costs of the OIG's investigation. The AG's Office will continue to review the OIG's recent detailed report.
This story will be updated.
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