University of Hawaii pres gets sweet deal to leave early

M.R.C. Greenwood

M.R.C. Greenwood

By Malia Zimmerman | Hawaii Reporter

HONOLULU — M.R.C. Greenwood will earn a little less than $25,000 a month after she resigns as University of Hawaii president.

It’s part of a new deal reached Thursday in a closed-door meeting of the university’s Board of Regents.

Her nearly $300,000 a year new position with the university’s John A. Burns School of Medicine is a step down from her $475,000 a year president’s salary, which includes a $5,000 monthly housing allowance, club memberships and worldwide travel.

Greenwood will leave her job as president on Aug. 31, take a year leave of absence without pay, and return to work at the medical school Aug. 31, 2014.

At the medical school, she will be tasked with establishing a center to study diabetes and obesity.

Regents agreed that Greenwood, who was granted tenure when she accepted the job as president in 2009, could work for six months a year, every year, for as long as she wishes.

Her salary will be higher than any other professor at the medical school, and is the maximum salary she could receive at the university. No other details about her compensation package were released by the Regents on Thursday, but a former Regent estimates that if Greenwood retires after two years, she’ll be fully vested in the state retirement system and could receive as much as $300,000 a year until her death.

Two Regents said Thursday the deal with Greenwood good for the university.

“I think it’s a bargain for this state to be able to retain a scientist and a manager of her caliber to lead this, or to help this effort,” said John Holtzman, who was elected Board of Regents chairman Thursday.

Chuck Gee, another of the Regents, tried to curb any criticism the board might receive for allowing Greenwood to work at her post for just six months a year.

“If prologue follows history, this scientist can do more in six months than most people can do in a year, so I think we are getting a bargain,” Gee said.

Several of the board members praised Greenwood’s leadership and accomplishments and professional background during the 8-hour meeting, and said it was only in the last year that there were problems at the University.

Their negotiations with Greenwood were done in secret, despite pleas from the media and two others attending to conduct their discussion about Greenwood’s future and eight other items that could cost the taxpayers millions of dollars, in the public’s view.

Greenwood’s relationship with the Board of Regents hasn’t always been so cozy. She threatened to sue the university in October 2012 unless the Regents gave her a $2 million buy out, a threat she withdrew Nov. 6, 2012, after Hawaii’s senior U.S. Sen. Daniel Inouye intervened on her behalf. The senator has since passed away.

The threat came after Greenwood came under fire by lawmakers, the public and the media for allegations of incompetent leadership and management. Critics also called into question her spending practices while tuition more than doubled on her watch.

Greenwood was forced to resign as a provost and vice president in the University of California system in 2005, after an internal investigation showed she helped get her business partner a position within the system and may have influenced another employee to hire her son as an intern.

Holtzman said Thursday the University of Hawaii has selected a likely candidate to replace Greenwood temporarily while the Regents find a headhunting firm to do a nationwide search for her permanent replacement.

Reach Malia Zimmerman at [email protected]

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