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HI: Senate leader, ex AG critical of millions spent on UH legal counsel

By   /   November 27, 2012  /   News  /   No Comments

By Malia Zimmerman | Hawaii Reporter


University of Hawaii management has been under fire in recent months for wasting millions of dollars on outside law firms and public relations agencies while also having a plethora of attorneys and public relations personnel on staff.

Now a former attorney general and high-ranking state senator are questioning the university’s practice, specifically related to legal counsel.

Senate Vice President Donna Mercado Kim said the budget for the university’s Office of General Counsel is $1.2 million a year. UH also spent more than $2.2 million from March 2011 through May 2012 for outside legal counsel.

The issue was highlighted in a series of recent Senate investigative hearings, during which lawmakers looked into spending and management practices at the state university.

Kim organized the hearings at the request of Senate leadership after University President M.R.C. Greenwood admitted the institution was scammed out of a $200,000 deposit on what turned out to be a fake Stevie Wonder concert.

The public, and senators, questioned why the many attorneys and administrators did not scrutinize the deal before wiring the money.

Michael Lilly, former Hawaii attorney general, said part of the reason the university has “lost its way” is it no longer has the benefit of independent oversight by the attorney general’s office. Instead, it relies on nine staff attorneys.

One problem with in-house counsel, Lilly said, is “they tend to provide the advice the organization wants to hear, not necessarily the advice it needs to hear.”

In addition, he said it is “troubling” that the university’s nine-member law firm “is not enough”, requiring the university to contract with outside law “to help with UH missteps.”

See the complete story at HawaiiReporter.com