Friday, July 13, 2012
Better background on the UH concert scandal is available only a click away
by Larry Geller
The Star-Advertiser coverage of the UH/Stevie Wonder scandal has been shallow at best. If you’d like to learn more than how UH officials are scrambling around like chickens without a head, click over to Ian Lind’s More background on how $200K of UH money could have gone walkabout (7/12/2012).
Speaking of chickens, the S-A could give us more value for our paywall dollar. For example, on the claim that the FBI is investigating, we read this from the front-page story (strangely missing from the website home page unless you have the patience to endure the rotation of the photo gallery through seven stories):
Meanwhile, the FBI has begun a criminal investigation and has told UH officials it can find no trace of the $200,000 the university wired to a Florida bank account said to be involved in the bogus fundraising concert for UH athletics planned for Aug. 18 at the Stan Sheriff Center, UH sources told the Star-Advertiser.
[Star-Advertiser p. A1, More at UH may face the music, 7/13/2012]
Ah, good, the feds on on it. But wait… I thought that the FBI won’t confirm whether it is conducting an investigation. Is the paper reporting that there is an investigation? Actually the paragraph seems to say that UH asserts this, as we find out if we make it all the way to the end of the paragraph.
And indeed, the very next sentence seems to confirm that the previous paragraph was groundless:
FBI Special Agent Tom Simon acknowledged that the FBI has been contacted by UH officials, but said he could not comment further.
Simon goes on to shred the credibility of the story he appears in:
"I can confirm that the referral has been made to the FBI Honolulu office by the University of Hawaii," Simon said. "But DOJ (Department of Justice) policies prohibit me from confirming or denying the existence of an FBI investigation unless or until charges are filed."
So in the end it seems that UH may have no grounds to claim a criminal investigation is underway, but the reporters didn’t clarify whether they asked UH about this claim, only that they couldn’t verify it from speaking to an FBI agent. Not bad, but not terribly insightful.
Over on the editorial page, the editors neither confirm nor deny that they know about an FBI investigation, suggesting only that:
…an FBI investigation is appropriate to get to the bottom of the alleged scam and support criminal charges.
This is perhaps a small but basic factoid. How do the reporters fact-check their story? Is the UH claim true or false? And who actually cares?
Ian’s article is a much better read. Recapping his previous investigation, he reveals, for example:
Money from sponsors and booster clubs was deposited in 39 special accounts at the UH Foundation, where it could be spent without restrictions that normally apply to state agencies.
And Ian questions whether the Manoa chancellor or the UH administration itself was running the athletic department, which brings with it questions about what UH president Greenwood knew or should have known about the current concert arrangements:
The NCAA has rules which say the Manoa chancellor, as the top administrator of the campus where the athletic program is lodged, should be in charge. And UH reported to the NCAA that the chancellor was firmly in control, as the rules require. But there were lots of questions about whether that was the reality, which were discussed here late last year. The evidence seemed to show UH President Greenwood’s office was calling the shots, and the chancellor was relegated to a minor role, certainly not setting policy.
Snipping Ian’s article doesn’t really work well—I suggest you click over and read it in full, along with the comments.
The Star Ad seems intent in minimizing the scope of this mess. Firts it described the affair as "a blunder" and now folks "will face the music". Basically this whole matter was a boo-boo, a peccadillo. Nowhere is the phrase "a screw-up of immense proportions" used, but it should be.
Sports are a prime money-maker for any print newspaper. Other staff may lose their jobs, but sports is sacred and protected. I don't know if this explains the soft approach to coverage in the S-A.