Evan S. Dobelle, the former Trinity College president who made the school a national model among urban colleges, has been fired for unspecified reasons as president of the University of Hawaii.
The university's board of regents voted to fire Dobelle after a closed-door session Tuesday night, saying only that the action was "with cause."
"Sadly, we have come to the realization that the president no longer has our trust, and there is no longer a unity of purpose between the board and the president, or a clear recognition of his integrity, character and commitment," Lee said.
Lee would not elaborate on the regents' decision, but the firing "with cause" signals that the board does not intend to pay him the $2 million severance package in his contract.
The regents were unable to contact Dobelle to inform him of their decision, university officials said. Dobelle was on the mainland, touring colleges with his son.
"I am both amazed and regret the action taken by the regents, but have great faith in the strong administrative team that I put in place to continue to advance our efforts on behalf of our faculty, researchers and students on all our islands," Dobelle said in a statement faxed to the press Wednesday.
Dobelle, reached Wednesday in Chicago, would not comment on his dismissal, but said that his contract includes a provision allowing him to continue as a tenured full professor of urban regional planning.
"Working directly with students has always been my greatest joy and I look forward to being able to have any efforts now concentrated with them," he said in his statement.
"I am proud of everything I have done as president of the University of Hawaii, and I thank everyone for that privilege."
Since the news of his dismissal, "I've been answering phones from well-wishers, the press and search firms," he said.
His trip to the mainland included a stop Monday in Hartford.
``He was in here to see me. ... He was working like he always does,'' said Hartford Mayor Eddie A. Perez. The mayor would not speculate on the reasons for the firing and said Dobelle did not raise the issue of his job status. ``We discussed family. We discussed how Hartford was doing. It was a personal visit,'' Perez said.
In Hawaii, board members gathered earlier this week to evaluate Dobelle's performance amid news reports that some unidentified regents were calling for his ouster.
In response, Dobelle issued a statement that said: ``The total violation of the evaluation process by the inaccurate and sensational public comment of anonymous regents really is extraordinary.''
A news report in the Honolulu Advertiser said that Dobelle's relationship with the board and with Republican Gov. Linda Lingle had deteriorated. It also said the relationship with Lingle had been strained over Dobelle's decision to publicly endorse her Democratic opponent.
The newspaper said that under Dobelle's contract, firing with cause is limited to conviction of a felony, a medical determination of mental instability, or conduct that constitutes moral turpitude or brings disrespect to the university.
At the regents' meeting, faculty and students representing the Kualii Native Hawaiian Advisory Council urged the board to retain Dobelle. ``He is the only president of the University of Hawaii that has ever supported Hawaiian issues,'' said Lilikala Kameeleihiwa, director of the Center for Hawaiian Studies.
Dobelle, 58, went to Hawaii in 2001 after seven years as president of Trinity. At Trinity, he became one of Hartford's most influential and recognizable figures and raised Trinity's profile by making the college a key partner in an ambitious, $250 million neighborhood redevelopment project.
The centerpiece of that project is the $110 million Learning Corridor, a complex of public schools adjacent to the Trinity campus.
At Hawaii, however, the regents' fiscal year 2002-03 evaluation criticized Dobelle's performance in several areas, including fiscal management and fund-raising efforts.
It faulted him for establishing a film school without notifying the board, and failing to follow through on promises to raise faculty salaries, among other concerns.
A previous version of this story incorrectly said that former Trinity College President Evan S. Dobelle, who was fired as president of the University of Hawaii , was in Hartford on Tuesday.
An Associated Press report is included in this story.