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UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE DISTRICT OF MASSACHUSETTS WESTERN DIVISION
DR. EVAN S. DOBELLE Plaintiff, v. JOHN (“JACK”) FLYNN III, in his Official Capacity as Chair of the Board of Trustees of Westfield State University and Individually, KEVIN R. QUEENIN, in his Official Capacity as former Chair of the Board of Trustees of Westfield State University and Individually, WESTFIELD STATE UNIVERSITY, RICHARD M. FREELAND, in his Official Capacity as Commissioner of Higher Education and Individually, RUBIN & RUDMAN LLP, JAMES B. COX, ELIZABETH D. SCHEIBEL, in her Official Capacity as an Board of Trustees of Westfield State University Executive Committee member, and Individually, and O’CONNOR & DREW, P.C. Defendants.
CIVIL ACTION NO.
COMPLAINT Dr. Evan Dobelle, the President of Westfield State University, brings this Complaint and alleges the following:
INTRODUCTORY STATEMENT 1. In 2008, after an extensive search, Westfield State College appointed Dr. Evan S. Dobelle
(“Dr. Dobelle”), a nationally-noted figure in higher education and experienced public servant in
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both national and local government, to be its President. Dr. Dobelle had a reputation for being a visionary, having served as President/Chancellor of five institutions of higher education across the country. At Westfield State, his mission was to transform a small and often-overlooked college into a university better equipped to prepare its students to succeed in an increasingly competitive and complex global economy. While the school had traditionally been known for its Criminal Justice and teacher preparation programs, there was strong interest in strengthening the full range of notable programs of study available. 2. Throughout his tenure at Westfield State, now called Westfield State University (“WSU,”
or the “University”), Dr. Dobelle’s achievements have been lauded by the University’s Board of Trustees (the “Board”) and in the media. Trustees praised his leadership, his fiscal management, and an extensive list of specific accomplishments. 3. With Dr. Dobelle leadership, WSU implemented important new academic programs,
including a master’s of Social Work, a bachelor’s degree in Nursing, an on-line business degree, and the creation of a Department of World Language and a Department of Ethnic and Gender Studies. WSU’s commitment to diversity resulted in a more than tripled number of minority students enrolled in the freshman class this year as compared to 2008 and a significant increase in minority faculty. The WSU campus has undergone a significant physical transformation, evidenced by new construction, long overdue overhauls to existing campus buildings, and making the entire institution wireless. WSU recognized a significant increase in alumni giving in just the first 18 months under Dr. Dobelle’s watch, as well as substantial increases for capital projects by various state agencies. WSU also reduced its faculty-student ratio and increased tenure track faculty by 33 percent with the hiring of 56 new faculty members since 2008. During Dr. Dobelle’s tenure, WSU rose an entire tier in U.S. News and World Report rankings.
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As part of the University’s plan, Dr. Dobelle, in collaboration with the University’s
Board and the Board of the Westfield State Foundation (the “Foundation”), also embarked on an effort to raise the University’s profile and prominence, and strengthen its ties to its community in Western Massachusetts. To this end, he worked with the Foundation to initiate a highlysuccessful Speakers’ Series through which internationally renowned speakers, including highranking former government officials, authors, journalists, and scholars, were invited to WSU to give talks, and which were open to faculty, students and members of the community free-ofcharge. 5. While these efforts required substantial investments, WSU has also flourished financially.
In the most recent University financial audit, outside auditors recognized the fiscal soundness of the University’s position under Dr. Dobelle’s leadership. In fact, the President’s office consistently came in under budget for its expenses, including those related to travel. 6. Under his stewardship, even administrative issues were identified and addressed. In
2010, Dr. Dobelle voluntarily reported to the Chairman of the WSU Board administrative errors made with respect to billing practices. Specifically, Dr. Dobelle informed the then-Board Chair Kevin Queenin and University counsel Mark Peters that his understanding of historical practice of charging personal expenses, incidental to University-related travel, to a University credit card, and subsequently reimbursing those charges, was not, in fact, proper procedure. When Dr. Dobelle asked the University’s attorney, Peters, whether he should lose sleep over this, Peters assured him he should not. Then-Chair Queenin, who shared the information with Trustee Flynn, neither disciplined nor criticized Dr. Dobelle for bringing the administrative issue to light. On the contrary, Queenin worked with Dr. Dobelle and the administration to strengthen the relevant University policies, which revisions were in turn approved by the Board. Under current
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policy, if an administrator charges personal expenses to a University credit card, he or she will have their University credit card revoked. 7. These administrative reforms were important because domestic and international travel
by administrators and faculty was critical to achieving the enhancements sought by Dr. Dobelle and the Board. Dr. Dobelle wanted to ensure things were done correctly. In fact, following implementation of the new policies, errors in the use of University credit cards were infrequent. 8. The accomplishments at WSU were widely recognized. Chairs of the University’s Board
praised Dr. Dobelle’s leadership, vision, administration, and financial stewardship. He received glowing performance reviews, which were then forwarded to the Massachusetts Board of Higher Education. The local press noted with pride the dramatic improvements at WSU. Just this year, the Chairman of the Massachusetts Board of Higher Education called Dr. Dobelle “a hero.” 9. But the trajectory of the University and the financial investments that were required were
not without detractors. In July, 2012, Defendant Jack Flynn was made the Chairman of the WSU Board. Although Flynn had served on the Board, notably as long-time Chair of the Finance Committee where he was highly involved with details relating to budget expenditures, he had no prior experience in board governance or with the fundraising role of the Foundation. Flynn was and is a high ranking official with the Massachusetts State Police. 10. Shortly after he was appointed Board Chair, Flynn set about to undermine Dr. Dobelle’s
leadership and the University’s trajectory. To that end, he began conducting an investigation of historical travel and expenses by Dr. Dobelle and other administrators -- expenses that had already been reviewed by the University’s counsel before. In connection with his investigation, he personally interrogated University personnel and assembled documents.
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Flynn’s mission of attacking Dr. Dobelle took place without regard to rules or laws
specifically designed to avoid these types of cowboy tactics. In violation of University by-laws, Flynn engaged and personally supervised an accounting firm to conduct a wide-ranging review of expenditures dating back to the beginning of Dr. Dobelle’s tenure. In violation of the Commonwealth’s Open Meeting laws, he collaborated with three other Trustees, one of whom was another former high-ranking State Police official, but hid his activities from the rest of the Board and from the public. He personally authorized University expenditures of nearly $100,000 in connection with his one-man inquiry. 12. After Dr. Dobelle insisted that Flynn’s violations be remedied, Flynn embarked on a
media campaign to vindicate his unlawful actions by alleging that he had uncovered financial irregularities. 13. In response to leaks to the press and State officials, the Massachusetts Inspector General
began his own review. 14. Dr. Dobelle insisted that the Board meet to address the issues. On August 29, 2013,
television cameras, radio correspondents and print reporters from all over the state crowded into a conference room on the WSU campus. Several weeks before the meeting, Board members received a copy of reports on Dr. Dobelle’s expenditures prepared by accountants at Flynn’s direction. At the meeting, Board members peppered the accountants with questions. They also asked Dr. Dobelle questions about expenditures and received answers. In the end, Board members recognized that the administrative issues that had been identified were previously addressed, and expressed concern that Flynn had violated the University’s by-laws and state Open Meeting laws by conducting his investigation. They concluded by praising Dr. Dobelle. One trustee called Dr. Dobelle a “visionary” and noted that all visionaries “have detractors.”
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Another trustee criticized the media for creating a misperception, an opinion also expressed by other trustees. Yet another trustee praised Dr. Dobelle’s accomplishments and concluded that “transformational leadership is not for the meek.” By the end of the meeting, even Chairman Flynn acknowledged that Dr. Dobelle had accomplished more in his five-year tenure than had been accomplished in the preceding 30 years. 15. Flynn was clearly embarrassed. Instead of achieving his desired result, he had been
castigated by his fellow Board members. In response, he set out to defend himself against allegations that he had violated the law, continuing and intensifying his increasingly prominent media campaign against Dr. Dobelle. 16. Almost immediately, senior state administration officials weighed in to support their
colleague (as noted above, Flynn was himself an administration official, holding a senior post with the State Police). Massachusetts Education Secretary Matthew Malone publicly and sharply criticized Dr. Dobelle and castigated the Board for supporting him. But it was Commissioner of Higher Education Richard Freeland who took the lead. Freeland excoriated Dr. Dobelle and the Board in public comments and in vituperative letters shared immediately with the media. 17. When the Board failed to relent to the public tirades clearly intended to embarrass it,
Freeland announced that he was withholding certain funds that were critically important to the University’s faculty, staff and students, until the Board took what he considered appropriate action. At its heart, this was extortion intended to force the Board to fire Dr. Dobelle. 18. Commissioner Freeland’s staff then warned representatives of the Board that it could not
even freely negotiate Dr. Dobelle’s departure as President. Despite the terms of Dr. Dobelle’s contract and the limited authority of state education officials, Freeland insisted that he and/or the State Board of Higher Education would need to approve any such agreement between the Board
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and the President unless it adhered to certain specified parameters. Commissioner Freeland wanted Dr. Dobelle out, and he wanted him out on his terms. 19. In response to Freeland’s pressure and threats, the Board convened a Special Meeting on
October 16, 2013 to determine whether to suspend Dr. Dobelle. 20. Commissioner Freeland announced that he would personally attend the meeting. Not
surprisingly, in light of Flynn’s long-standing campaign and Freeland’s extortion and public threats, the Board voted to place Dr. Dobelle on administrative leave, effective immediately. They directed that Dr. Dobelle turn in his University cell phone and computer, and that he relinquish his University vehicle (to which he remains entitled by contract). They also directed that he not communicate with University personnel or come onto campus. The Board also voted to engage counsel to begin yet another “investigation” of Dr. Dobelle’s expenditures and “leadership.” 21. At age 68, Dr. Dobelle’s long-celebrated career has been swiftly, unjustly and perhaps
irreparably damaged. In addition to Dr. Dobelle’s reputation, his contract and his due process rights – not to mention the interests of the students, faculty, staff and graduates of WSU – have been casualties in Freeland and Flynn’s guerilla war for control of the University. 22. Dr. Dobelle thus seeks compensatory and punitive damages, and whatever other relief as
would be just under the circumstances, as a result of such misconduct.
THE PARTIES 23. Plaintiff Evan Dobelle is a U.S. Citizen and resident of Pittsfield, Massachusetts. At all
times relevant to this Complaint, he has been President of WSU.
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Upon information and belief, John “Jack” Flynn III (“Flynn”) is an individual who
resides in Massachusetts. At all times relevant to this Complaint, Flynn was a member of the WSU Board, becoming Chair of the Board in 2012. Flynn is being sued in both his official capacity and in his individual (or personal) capacity. 25. Upon information and belief Kevin R. Queenin (“Queenin”) is a Massachusetts resident.
At all times relevant to this Complaint, Queenin was first Chair and then Secretary of the WSU Board, and a member of the Board of Directors and former Chairman of the Foundation. Queenin is being sued in both his official capacity and in his individual (or personal) capacity. 26. WSU is an institution of higher education created by the Commonwealth of
Massachusetts with its principal place of business at 577 Western Avenue, Westfield, MA. 27. Richard M. Freeland (“Freeland”) is a Massachusetts resident with an office at the
Department of Higher Education, One Ashburton Place, Room 1401, Boston, MA 02108. Freeland is being sued in both his individual (or personal) capacity and in his official capacity as Commissioner of Higher Education. 28. Rubin & Rudman is a Limited Liability Partnership under the Commonwealth of
Massachusetts with its principal place of business at 50 Rowes Wharf in Boston, Massachusetts. 29. James Cox (“Cox”) is an individual residing in Massachusetts and a partner of Rubin &
Rudman with his office at 50 Rowes Wharf in Boston, Massachusetts. 30. Elizabeth D. Scheibel (“Scheibel”) is an individual residing in South Hadley,
Massachusetts. At all times relevant to this Complaint, she has been a member of the WSU Board of Trustees and a member of the Board’s Executive Committee. She is being sued in both her official capacity and in her individual (or personal) capacity.
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O’Connor & Drew, P.C. (“O&D”) is a Massachusetts corporation, with its principal place
of business at 25 Braintree Hill Office Park, Suite 102, Braintree, MA 02184.
JURISDICTION AND VENUE 32. This Court has jurisdiction of this civil action pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1331 because it
raises a federal question involving the due process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. 33. This Court has supplemental jurisdiction over Plaintiff’s state law claims pursuant to 28
U.S.C. § 1367. 34. Venue is proper pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1391 as the Western Division is the district
where Defendant WSU has its principal place of business, and where a substantial part of the events and omissions occurred giving rise to this action.
FACTS Dr. Evan Dobelle’s Distinguished Career 35. Dr. Evan S. Dobelle is considered a visionary in higher education, with a long and
illustrious career in education and public service. 36. He holds a doctorate in Education Administration from the University of Massachusetts
Amherst and a master’s degree in public administration from Harvard University. 37. An experienced public servant in both national and local government, Dr. Dobelle has
served as President of six institutions of higher education across the country over the course of the past 25 years. 38. From 1987 to 1990, he served as President of Middlesex Community College in Bedord
and Lowell, Massachusetts.
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From 1990 to 1995, he served as President and Chancellor of City College of San
Francisco. Dr. Dobelle’s experience and connections in California would later play a meaningful role in his educational and fundraising efforts at WSU. 40. From 1995 to 2001, he served as President of Trinity College in Hartford, Connecticut,
where he focused on, among other things, neighborhood renewal efforts in a challenged part of Connecticut’s capital city. 41. 42. Dr. Dobelle served as President of the University of Hawaii from 2001 to 2004. From 2004 to 2007, he served as President of the New England Board of Higher
Education. 43. Dr. Dobelle is renowned for and has been celebrated for his dramatic initiatives and
correspondingly impressive achievements.
WSU Recruits a Visionary 44. In 2007, WSU, 1 at the time an approximately 5,000-student state school that produced
many Massachusetts teachers and police, was seeking a President who could put the school in a position to succeed in an increasingly competitive, difficult and global world of higher education. 45. things. 46. A member of the WSU hiring committee recalled that the consultant who recruited Dr. At the time, the school was also seeking a bold leader with the vision and ability to do big
Dobelle stated that he was so impressive that he was “almost out of [the University’s] league.”
In October 2010, Westfield State College was renamed Westfield State University as a result of Dr. Dobelle and his colleagues’ efforts to increase appropriate understanding of the strengths, as well as provide enhanced visibility of the State Colleges, thru official University status. For clarity and consistency, the institution is referred to as Westfield State University throughout this Complaint, irrespective of the time period.
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Nevertheless, Dr. Dobelle was up for the challenge, and in December 2007, the then-
Board voted to appoint Dr. Dobelle as President and Professor of Political Science. 48. On or about December 21, 2007, WSU entered into an employment agreement with Dr.
Dobelle. (See Exhibit A). 49. The employment contract charged Dr. Dobelle with various responsibilities, including: a. “The President shall raise funds through private gifts as well as public appropriations. The President shall actively participate in and direct these activities as the symbol and spokesperson for the College.” b. “The President shall actively develop external relations with alumni, legislators, state officials, county officers, community members and leaders and prospective students.” c. “Consistent with applicable laws and policies, the College will bear any costs reasonably incurred by the President in connection with activities that pertain to the business of the College and the performance of the President’s duties and the President may use College staff, facilities, and services for the support of such activities. Activities undertaken for the purpose of the promoting support [sic] for the College are understood to be activities that pertain to the business of the College.” 50. Notably, the contract does not permit WSU to suspend Dr. Dobelle, either with or
without pay. 51. The contract also does not define what “promoting support” means either, although Dr.
Dobelle understood it to have a broad scope.
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WSU Reaps Immediate Rewards from Dr. Dobelle’s Ambitious Efforts 52. Upon arrival at WSU, Dr. Dobelle immediately began a variety of ambitious initiatives,
with the enthusiastic support of, and in partnership with, the WSU Board, administration, faculty, students and the Foundation. 53. Over the course of the first two years, the University, under Dr. Dobelle’s stewardship,
planned and executed a tremendously successful Speaker Series, bringing world- renowned leaders in the arts and sciences, including high-ranking former government officials, authors, journalists, and scholars, to Westfield, Massachusetts to address the WSU students and faculty. 54. Because one of Dr. Dobelle’s initiatives was to establish a relationship between WSU and
the city of Westfield and surrounding areas, neighbors long-estranged from one another, he opened the Speaker Series up to the community, free of charge. 55. Another key initiative, dictated by a campus-wide strategic planning session, was to
expand WSU’s international focus. Because having an international program was determined to be the University’s top priority, the WSU faculty and administration organized several trips designed to create opportunities for international travel for students, implement international programs and exchanges, and attract foreign students. 56. Consistent with those goals, and on the advice of the former Foundation Board Chair and
a former VP of Academic Affairs, one trip to Asia was arranged, in coordination with the thenFoundation Executive Director. Among the delegation on this trip were two members of the Foundation Board of Directors, three faculty members, three international consultants, and Dr. Dobelle. 57. Such investments reaped tremendous dividends, increasing WSU’s international presence
with over 700 global institutions, up from 13 in 2008, and allowing over 600 WSU students to
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travel throughout the world to locations including Costa Rica, Florence, Vietnam, Ghana, and London. 58. WSU’s international focus, however, did not distract Dr. Dobelle from achieving
remarkable accomplishments at home in Massachusetts. 59. Under his leadership, WSU faculty implemented important new academic programs,
including a master’s of Social Work, a bachelor’s degree in Nursing, an on-line business degree, and the creation of a Department of World Language and a Department of Ethnic and Gender Studies. 60. WSU’s renewed commitment to diversity was evidenced by the more than tripled number
of minority students enrolled in the freshman class this year as compared to 2008 and a significant increase in the number of minority faculty. 61. During Dr. Dobelle’s presidency, the WSU campus has undergone a significant, multi-
million dollar physical transformation, evidenced by new construction, long overdue overhauls to existing campus buildings, and making the entire institution wireless. 62. During Dr. Dobelle’s tenure, WSU rose an entire tier in U.S. News and World Report
rankings. 63. WSU recognized a significant increase in alumni giving in just the first 18 months under
Dr. Dobelle’s watch. 64. 65. WSU saw a significant increase in dollars for capital projects. WSU also reduced its faculty-student ratio and increased tenure track faculty by 33
percent with the hiring of 56 new faculty members since 2008.
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One local newspaper, the Springfield Republican, opined in 2008 that Dr. Dobelle “has
drawn praise for his leadership from both his students and many community members ….” 2 67. An editorial in the same paper dated October 2010 noted that WSU’s expansion plans
“make sense for a school that’s growing with the times. Enrollment and applications are up, and its leadership team is working in a disciplined way to claim the school’s rightful place in the state’s higher education system.” 3
Foundation Accounting Troubles 68. The Foundation is a tax-exempt 501(c)(3) organization that raises funds and manages
charitable gifts in support of WSU activities. 69. It is distinct from WSU, and Dr. Dobelle is neither an officer nor director of the
Foundation. 70. WSU has worked in collaboration with the Foundation to fund a range of fruitful
initiatives. 71. In 2010, the Foundation’s independent auditor determined that the Foundation was at risk
of facing a “going concern” problem because (1) the Foundation used funds from donorrestricted accounts for purposes outside the scope of the donor restrictions and (2) because an understanding between the Foundation and the City of Westfield regarding the abatement of taxes for a Foundation property was invalid.
Alex Peshkov, Springfield Republican, “With ceremonies coming up Saturday, Westfield State College President Evan Dobelle earns praise for leadership,” September 25, 2008, available at http://www.masslive.com/news/index.ssf/2008/09/with_ceremonies_coming_up_satu.html (last visited October 15, 2013). 3 The Republican Editorials, “Westfield State’s going on a roll,” October 15, 2010, available at http://www.masslive.com/opinion/index.ssf/2010/10/editorial_westfield_states_goi.html (last visited October 15, 2013).
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The issue was resolved when the decision to transfer funds from WSU to the Foundation
was evaluated and sanctioned by a team of internal and external officials, including thenUniversity Vice President of Administration and Finance Gerald W. Hayes, then-Board Chair Queenin, the University’s independent auditor, PriceWaterhouseCoopers, Dr. Dobelle, and University counsel Rubin & Rudman. 73. Following the transfer, in September 2010, then-Foundation Chair, Sheridan Carey, wrote
to Dr. Dobelle to outline the various actions the Foundation would undertake to “improv[e] the ongoing management of its fiscal affairs,” including ceasing “to expend or use moneys or other assets … in amounts or at a rate that can be reasonably anticipated will exceed the moneys or other assets it has … available for the purpose.”
University Procedure vs. University Policy on Travel and Credit Card Use 74. There were also administrative challenges when, in 2010, Dr. Dobelle understood that the
practice of charging personal expenses incurred in connection with University travel to University credit cards, and subsequently reimbursing the University for those charges, was not proper procedure under then-applicable University policies. 75. The policy, pursuant to which a traveller was required to use two or more credit cards for
the same trip in order to charge business and personal expenses separately, was cumbersome from an administrative standpoint at times, particularly for personnel such as Dr. Dobelle, whose contractual responsibilities required frequent University-related travel, and those staff members responsible for arranging such travel. 76. Accordingly, Dr. Dobelle voluntarily returned both his Foundation and University credit
cards in October 2010 in order to avoid both the appearance of impropriety and potential future
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administrative errors, and reported his improper - albeit unintentional - reimbursement practices to the then-Chair of the Board of Trustees, Kevin Queenin, and to University legal counsel, Mark Peters. 77. When Dr. Dobelle asked Peters whether he “should lose sleep over this”, Peters assured
him he should not. 78. To ensure any issues were thoroughly, properly and promptly addressed, Dr. Dobelle,
with then-Board Chair Queenin, commissioned University counsel Rubin & Rudman to conduct a comprehensive review of “credit card use, expense reimbursements and like transactions in connection with certain international travel.” 79. In particular, counsel was charged with ascertaining whether records that documented the
international travel of Dr. Dobelle, among others, violated the State Ethics Statute, c. 268A of the General Laws. 80. In its November 2011 report, counsel found (a) that there was “no evidence that any of
the documented travel was for other than University purposes,” (b) that “Dobelle’s reimbursement of the University for personal expenses appears generally to be made promptly after the C/C [credit card] charge in question is identified,” (c) that although University policy prohibits the use of a University-issued credit card for personal expenses, “I am informed that the University’s policy … is not enforced with strict literalness,” and (d) with respect to whether “any matter pertaining to the international travel … might be thought to constitute a violation” of the statute, “I think there is none.” 81. On or about November 28, 2011, WSU counsel provided a copy of its report to Dr.
Dobelle and then- Chair Queenin, who in turn shared the information with Trustee Flynn.
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Notwithstanding counsel’s benign findings, Dr. Dobelle worked with the administration
and then-Chair Queenin to strengthen WSU’s travel and credit card policies to ensure compliance therewith. 83. Notably, according to the minutes of the April 12, 2012 Board meeting during which
revisions to WSU’s Travel, Credit Card, and Reimbursement of Personal and Petty Cash Funds policies were approved, Trustee Flynn “applauded Dr. Dobelle and the Administration & Finance team for their work on these updated policies.” 84. Then-Chair Queenin did not consider, let alone implement, disciplinary action against Dr.
Dobelle. University counsel’s finding that the WSU policies were not enforced with “strict literalness” was consistent with the view that none of Dr. Dobelle’s unintentional, incidental, and ultimately harmless use of University credit cards warranted punitive measures. 85. On the contrary, Dr. Dobelle’s thriving collaboration with the faculty, Board, and
administration continued to benefit WSU, and although such achievements were accomplished through the efforts of the larger WSU team, Dr. Dobelle received the lion share of accolades and his numerous and varied accomplishments did not go without notice.
Dr. Dobelle’s Year-End 2011 Evaluation 86. In Dr. Dobelle’s year-end 2011 evaluation, then-Board Chair Queenin expressed
extensive and unmitigated praise for the President. Specifically: a. “Dr. Dobelle’s performance, simply stated, has been excellent.” b. “Dr. Dobelle has created … a long term vision for the University. … The growth, expansion, and the popularity of Westfield State University are a direct result of Dr.
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Dobelle’s effort to be a decisive leader who provides clear direction while supporting a team environment.” c. “Dr. Dobelle and his team have aggressively confronted and resolved several obvious but complex capital deficiencies on campus. … By creating a cabinet level financial ‘task force,’ Dr. Dobelle kept the institution focused on the day to day financial challenges. As a result, the task force has been able to create the necessary financial disciplines that over the past few years have maintained the strong financial condition of the University.” d. “Dr. Dobelle’s unique ability to foster cooperative partnerships has allowed the University to achieve unprecedented progress in the area of deferred maintenance, building improvements and handicap access.” e. “In conclusion, we believe Dr. Dobelle defines leadership. His leadership and vision in education, fiscal matters, diversity initiatives, faculty, campus life and community relations are the main reason WSU enjoys such a positive reputation.” 87. Notably, Queenin’s review was submitted after (1) Dr. Dobelle reported, on his own, the
administrative errors pertaining to his University credit card use, (2) voluntarily returned his WSU and Foundation credit cards, and (3) commissioned counsel’s review. 88. Queenin neither referenced nor expressed concern regarding any of these events - or any
financial practices. 89. On or about December 21, 2011, Queenin submitted Dr. Dobelle’s annual evaluation to
the Massachusetts Department of Higher Education. 90. However, as one WSU Trustee would later observe at a Board meeting, “when you are a
visionary, you will have detractors.” Such was, apparently, the case with Dr. Dobelle.
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An Unauthorized Investigation Commences 91. On or about June 14, 2012, John Flynn, a Chief Administrative Officer of the
Massachusetts State Police was named Chair of the WSU Board. 92. Although Flynn had served on the Board, notably as long-time Chair of the Finance
Committee where he was highly involved with details relating to budget expenditures, he had no prior experience in board governance or with the fundraising role of the Foundation. 93. Roughly six weeks later, on or about August 3, Flynn received a package of financial
documents related to Dr. Dobelle’s travel and reimbursements from the then-Acting Vice President of Administration & Finance, who in turn had received them from another internal source. 94. secret. 95. Upon reviewing the documents, Flynn told several WSU administrators that the Board To date, the identity of the source of the original documents has been kept hidden and
would assume responsibility for reviewing the documents and making needed judgments. 96. 97. However, Flynn did not refer the matter to the Board. Instead, Flynn started down a path designed to defer to only one person’s judgment - his
own. Flynn instituted his own investigation, personally interrogating WSU personnel, collecting documents, and routinely undermining Board authority by circumventing the Board’s by-laws. 98. Flynn’s actions were particularly troubling, given that the Board was not only not
involved in, but was unaware of his so-called investigation. 99. WSU by-laws and Massachusetts state law require that any meeting of the WSU Board of
Trustees or its Executive Committee be properly noticed and open to the public.
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In September 2012, upon information and belief, Flynn called an unauthorized meeting of
the Executive Committee of the Board, including Secretary Queenin and Trustee Scheibel, but excluding Dr. Dobelle. This meeting was also attended by University counsel Mark Peters, during which it was decided that the University’s auditors, O’Connor & Drew P.C. (“O&D”), should be engaged to review the documents provided to Flynn to determine whether they would affect their findings as expressed in the annual audit of the University’s finances. 101. Upon information and belief, Flynn did not notify O&D that a prior review of similar
issues, over a nearly similar time period, had been conducted by WSU counsel and vetted by the then-Board Chair. Neither apparently did Rubin & Rudman, which had performed the earlier inquiry and was now involved in largely duplicative new one. 102. 103. The minutes of the September 2012 meeting were not filed. The WSU by-laws provide that the Executive Committee may act on matters
independently of the Board only in the case of “emergency.” However, the review of old travel documentation - the subject of which was already reviewed by counsel and the Board, and which had been provided to Flynn over one month prior - could not be considered an emergency that merited an exception to the by-law rule. 104. In any event, the WSU by-laws mandate that, even in the case of such an emergency, the
Executive Committee is required to secure, at the Board’s next regular meeting, the Board’s ratification of any action undertaken by the Executive Committee. 105. Neither Flynn, Queenin, Scheibel - nor any Executive Committee member - presented the
actions taken at the September meeting for ratification by the full Board when the Board next met on or about October 11, 2012.
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Moreover, the fact that neither Flynn, Queenin, nor Scheibel even referenced at the
October Board meeting the underlying package of documents, let alone the ensuing and unauthorized decision to engage O&D, reflects that the matter was not considered an “emergency.” 107. In fact, during the October Board meeting, Queenin, in his role as Chair of the Finance &
Capital Assets Committee, reported that the Committee met earlier that day to review year-end financial statements, and noted that O&D auditors “were complementary regarding [WSU’s] $6 million in assets.” 108. Further, at that meeting, Flynn, Queenin, and Scheibel each moved or seconded to
implement and/or adopt additional revisions to the WSU Travel and Credit Card policies, without any reference to the O&D engagement which was substantially focused on those very policies. 109. The Board approved the additional revisions to both the Travel and Credit Card policies
at the October meeting. 110. Chair Flynn and Trustee Queenin’s determination that neither the O&D review nor the
underlying documents warranted mention during the Board’s October meeting was echoed in their respective decisions to continue their unmitigated praise for Dr. Dobelle’s leadership and accomplishments over the following months.
Dr. Dobelle’s Year-End 2012 Evaluation & Salary Increase 111. Notwithstanding Flynn’s rogue investigation, Dr. Dobelle received another glowing year-
end evaluation for 2012.
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On October 16, 2012, well after any potential issues regarding Dr. Dobelle’s billing and
expense practices were known to the Executive Committee, Queenin, reflecting on his last year as Chair of the Board, submitted Dobelle’s annual evaluation to the Department of Higher Education. 113. Queenin bestowed continued and unremitting praise for the President in that evaluation: a. “Dr. Dobelle continues to provide extraordinary leadership and vision for the entire campus community and for the greater western mass area.” “Pro active is the term that I think best describes Dr. Dobelle’s approach to his relationships both on and off campus. He has created an environment that students, faculty and staff embrace.” b. “The University continues to aggressively outreach to the Westfield community. … Dr. Dobelle has been and continues to be THE driver of this successful partnership.” c. “In assessing Dr. Dobelle’s performance for this period of time, one only has to look at the results: academic excellence as well as completion of accreditation by NEASC; fiscal stability and responsibility; exceptional enrollment/graduation rates; a strong town/government relationship; an inviting campus that truly welcomes diversity and learning; improved infrastructure and new construction; a team approach to strategic initiatives.” d. “Dr. Dobelle continues to provide extraordinary leadership and vision for Westfield State University. I would respectfully request your review of the attached 57 page summary of accomplishments by Dr. Dobelle and his dedicated team. The complete body of work is a testament to Dr. Dobelle’s management, his vision and his tireless pursuit of academic excellence. Under the leadership of Dr. Dobelle and his
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dedicated team WSU is and will continue to be the gem of the State University System.” 114. Once again, if Queenin bore any reservations about Dr. Dobelle’s billing practices or
fiscal management, he declined to reference the same in the President’s all-encompassing evaluation. 115. O&D. 116. Nevertheless, the decision to heap sheer praise on Dr. Dobelle was likewise made by Six days later, on or about October 22, an official engagement letter was executed with
Board Chair Flynn when, in November of 2012, he recommended that Dr. Dobelle’s compensation be increased. 117. Writing on behalf of the Board, Flynn communicated the Executive Committee’s
unanimous decision to increase the President’s salary, without reference to a single qualifier or concern: a. “I have polled the Executive Committee of the Westfield State University Board of Trustees and am pleased to report that this Committee has unanimously endorsed a salary increase of 3% for Dr. Dobelle.” b. “There are … operational expenditures in every budget that return more on investment than they cost. We believe that a salary increase for Dr. Dobelle falls into this category.” c. “It is clear to all of us that the recent successes of our institution are a direct result of Evan’s contributions and leadership. We have witnessed increases in our enrollment, freshman classes with increasingly higher GPA’s and SAT scores, extraordinary improvements to our capital infrastructure and a sense of community and scholarship
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unlike anything we’ve ever seen before. Evan has earned our endorsement and we believe that an investment in Dr. Dobelle is an investment in Westfield’s future.” 118. In his letter to Freeland, Flynn adopted Queenin’s analysis. Once again, no concerns
about Dr. Dobelle’s travel expenses or financial management were referenced.
Improper Expansion of O&D’s Mission and Continued Violations of By-Laws and Violation of Open Meeting Laws 119. On or about December 3, 2012, Flynn received an initial draft report from O&D, which
he declined to share with the full Board, providing it only to the Executive Committee, including Queenin and Scheibel. 120. On or about December 6, 2012, the Executive Committee met again in secret, along with
University counsel Mark Peters, this time with the intent - and result - of expanding the scope of the already unauthorized O&D review. 121. No bidding process - formal or informal - was conducted, and no assessment of O&D’s
qualifications to conduct what now amounted to a forensic investigation (as opposed to a routine audit) was undertaken. 122. The December 6, 2012 Executive Committee meeting was not noticed, in violation of
Massachusetts’s Open Meeting laws, and, once again, a substantive decision was reached that was never presented to, much less approved by, the Board. 123. Later that month, at the Board of Trustees meeting on or about December 13, 2012, Flynn
reported that O&D was reviewing documents to determine “if they are in compliance,” but pointed out that the “documents were executed prior to policy changes” and that he felt the documents “won’t amount to much.”
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124. O&D. 125.
Notably, these statements were made after Flynn had already received a draft report from
On or about December 18, 2012, a new engagement letter was signed between O&D,
Flynn, and Robert Johnson, then-Chair of the Foundation. 126. In that engagement letter, the accounting firm confirmed that it “shall report,” not to the
Board, but “directly to John F. Flynn.” 127. At the Board’s later August 29, 2013 meeting, Flynn admitted that the decision to enter
into the December 18th engagement letter was not an action ratified by the Board. 128. On or about January 24, 2013, O&D provided a second draft report to Flynn. Once
again, Flynn kept the draft report secret from the Board. 129. On or about March 27, 2013, O&D provided a third draft report to Flynn. As was
becoming custom, Flynn again did not share the draft report with the Board. 130. 2013. 131. Dr. Dobelle was shocked and outraged by the content and unwarranted conclusions in the Flynn provided a version of the draft report to Dr. Dobelle in the first few months of
Report. He consulted with University attorney Cox of Rubin & Rudman. 132. Attorney Cox was also critical of O&D’s work, opining that the March draft report was
not a “professional product” due to the use of “syntax, … clichés and unnecessary opinion.” 133. Cox assured Dr. Dobelle that he “encouraged” O&D to “correct all of these things.” He
promised Dr. Dobelle that he would work with O&D to create a more accurate and professional report.
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Dr. Dobelle repeatedly offered to meet with O&D to answer any questions they might
have about the purpose of expenditures, but O&D routinely declined, stating that they found Dr. Dobelle intimidating. 135. On or about April 11, 2013, at its regular meeting, the Board approved additional
revisions to the WSU Travel Policy, without having been given access to the draft O&D reports. 136. Flynn admitted at the Board’s August 29, 2013 meeting that none of the actions related to
O&D’s engagement were presented for ratification at the Board’s April meeting.
Leaks to the Media and State Officials 137. Despite Flynn’s failure to advise the Board of the ongoing - and costly - review, he did
not hesitate to leak information to the media. 138. As a result, in the Spring of 2013, WSU began receiving public records requests from
multiple media outlets. 139. And, on or about July 11, 2013, WSU received a document request from the
Massachusetts Inspector General (the “IG”) for, among other things, all draft and final work products of any reviews undertaken by or for WSU pertaining to any expenditure or financial activities by Dr. Dobelle or his office. 140. Only as a result of this request, and the ensuing question as to whether existing privileges
should be waived, was the Board finally advised of O&D’s engagement and provided copies of its draft reports - some nine months after the accountants were first engaged.
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Board Response to Reports and Support of Dr. Dobelle 141. On July 30, 2013, for the first time, attorney Cox provided the Board with copies of the
various O&D draft reports in preparation for an August 1, 2013 Special Meeting called to address the IG’s document request. 142. 143. Also on July 30th, O&D provided an updated copy of the report to Flynn and Cox. For reasons that are not apparent, Cox did not circulate the latest version of the draft to
the Board. 144. Notwithstanding their late involvement, the Board acted swiftly to respond to both the
IG’s request for documents and the substance of O&D’s reports. 145. On August 29, 2013, the Board held a Special Meeting to discuss the findings of the
reports. 146. At that meeting, following a presentation by O&D, several Trustees voiced concerns
regarding the various procedural and statutory violations that culminated in the subject reports. 147. Though Flynn acknowledged the violations, ultimately, no meaningful discussion was
had or resolution reached as to what should be done, if anything, to remedy those violations. 148. Also at that meeting, Dr. Dobelle responded to specific items raised by O&D and
responded to all questions posed by the Board. 149. As a result, the Trustees, in turn, expressed their appreciation for Dr. Dobelle’s honesty
and gratitude for his efforts. 150. At the meeting, several trustees spoke out in strong support for Dr. Dobelle: a. Trustee Perez stated that the existing perception has created a misconception, expressing “shame” that the “whole story” was not shared with the public. b. Trustee Marcus admonished the media at the same meeting: “shame on the media.”
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c. Trustee Ruberto stated that he appreciated Dr. Dobelle’s “mea culpa” for administrative errors and noted that “transformational leadership is not for the meek.” d. Trustee Carvalho suggested that in order to furnish the public with the complete story and as a statement of the Board’s support, Dr. Dobelle’s remarks to the Board should be released to the public. e. Finally, Trustee Flynn acknowledged that Dr. Dobelle had done more for WSU in five years than was accomplished in the last 30 years. 151. Nevertheless, Flynn moved to place a temporary moratorium on all presidential travel
involving airfare or overnight lodging, which motion overwhelmingly failed. 152. The Trustees passed unanimously, however, a motion to postpone action on the items
raised in the O&D report until the regular October Board meeting, in order to provide the IG with the opportunity to finalize its review.
State Official Outrage Fuels the Sensationalist Media Inferno 153. Despite the release of Dr. Dobelle’s statement and the universal praise by the Trustees, an
ensuing media firestorm, fueled by leaks from within WSU and misleading characterizations made by University counsel Cox and Board Members Flynn, Queenin and Scheibel in a public meeting with Higher Education Commissioner Freeland and Secretary Malone of the Department of Education, scorched Dr. Dobelle’s character in the court of public opinion. 154. Moreover, despite the Board’s thoughtful response to the matters before it, Commissioner
Freeland was not content to leave the response in the Board’s hands (as required by Massachusetts law), choosing instead to use the media to help him usurp the Board’s role.
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In addition to publicly browbeating the Board to take action against Dr. Dobelle, using
the press as his bullhorn, Commissioner Freeland issued an open letter to Dr. Dobelle on September 25, 2013, in which he snidely demanded answers to a dozen questions related to the O&D reports, as well as a detailed accounting of every trip identified in the reports. 156. Despite Dr. Dobelle’s willingness to answer questions raised - both by the Board at its
meeting and by Commissioner Freeland at his own meeting - the Commissioner advised Dr. Dobelle in his letter that, in the “absence of a satisfactory response,” the Commissioner would “assume that the findings” in the report were true and would “take appropriate action.” 157. By way of a not-so-thinly-veiled threat to the Board, the Commissioner further noted in
his letter that, before any response was received from Dr. Dobelle and before any review of the underlying facts had actually been conducted, he had already “initiated a review of potential future WSU allocations and grant disbursements.” 158. Commissioner Freeland gave Dr. Dobelle just one week to provide detailed responses,
ignored both Dr. Dobelle’s commitments as President of WSU and the other items Dr. Dobelle was required to perform as a result of the media frenzy. 159. Such a deadline was entirely arbitrary and designed without any legal justification. The
purpose of such an unreasonable request was to then use this artificial deadline against Dr. Dobelle. 160. When Dr. Dobelle asked for a brief two-business day extension in order to compile a
complete and thorough response, Commissioner Freeland declined, again utilizing the press to communicate his refusal and feign disappointment.
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Moreover, as a result of what Commissioner Freeland characterized as Dr. Dobelle’s
“failure” to provide the requested responses by October 3, the Commissioner announced to the press that he was, effective immediately, withholding over $2 million in funding from WSU. 162. Such an action has no legal basis. Indeed, Commissioner Freeland’s actions were done
for the sole purpose of encouraging and demanding that the WSU Board breach its contract with Dobelle. 163. Based on the Commissioner’s actions, Dr. Dobelle held out little hope that any response
he could provide to the Commissioner would be deemed satisfactory. 164. Nonetheless, as he promised, two business days after the Commissioner’s artificial and
unreasonable deadline, Dr. Dobelle submitted a 20-page, single-spaced response to the Commissioner’s questions, and more than 60 pages of documentation to supplement the thousands of pages of documents already produced by WSU to the IG in response to his various requests. 165. Rather than conduct a review of the substance of Dr. Dobelle’s letter, the Commissioner
merely increased his pressure on the Board. He sent the Board an open letter in which he lambasted Dr. Dobelle and concluded that Dr. Dobelle’s actions were “at worst, intentional conduct and, at best, ineffective leadership.” 166. Further, despite the fact that the IG had yet to conduct a single interview as part of its
review of the matter, the Commissioner stated that again, in his opinion, “interviews and further research are not necessary.” He wanted Dr. Dobelle fired and was not willing to let the facts or due process get in his way. 167. The Commissioner concluded that it was “unacceptable” for the President “to engage in
the unrefuted conduct” set forth in his letter (ignoring the fact that Dr. Dobelle had refuted the
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letter’s allegations), further concluding that, in light of the “inappropriate behavior” exhibited by Dr. Dobelle, “it seems to me highly questionable whether Dr. Dobelle can or should continue to provide leadership to” WSU. 168. Noting that only the Board, not he, had authority to “remove a president,” Commissioner
Freeland finally made the veiled threat more explicit: “as long as these issues remain unaddressed, discretionary funding … remains suspended.” 169. In response to the Commissioner’s threat, which was repeated in the local, state and
national media, the Board - despite its earlier resolution to take any remaining issues up at its next regular meeting in late October - promptly scheduled a Special Meeting at Trustee Queenin’s request, for October 16, 2013 to determine whether to suspend Dr. Dobelle. 170. And, in the event that the threat of further public admonishment and continued extortion
of University funds was not sufficient to communicate his specific commands to the Board, the Commissioner warned, again via the media, that he would be in attendance at the Board’s upcoming meeting. 171. At the October 16, 2013 meeting, the Board voted to place Dr. Dobelle on administrative
leave, effective immediately. It directed that Dr. Dobelle turn in his University cell phone and computer, and that he relinquish his University vehicle (to which he was entitled by contract). They also directed that he not communicate with University personnel. 172. The Board also voted to engage counsel to begin an investigation of Dr. Dobelle’s
expenditures and “leadership.” 173. Shortly after Dr. Dobelle was placed on administrative leave, Freeland praised the Board
for its action and then provided it with a financial reward, unfreezing nearly $200,000 in funds. He continues, however, to hold hostage approximately $2 million in funding in his campaign to
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permanently remove Dr. Dobelle as WSU's president at any cost -- including causing harm to WSU's students and interfering with Dr. Dobelle’s contract.
CAUSES OF ACTION Count One: Breach of Contract (As to WSU Only) 174. 175. 176. Dr. Dobelle incorporates Paragraphs 1 to 173, as if stated herein. The agreement between Dr. Dobelle and WSU is a valid contract. The contract was supported by valid consideration, namely that Dr. Dobelle was offered
an annual salary in exchange for entering into the employment contract. 177. Dr. Dobelle has performed all obligations on his part to be performed under the
employment contract. 178. 179. WSU has benefited from Dr. Dobelle’s provisions of services as WSU President. By virtue of the foregoing, WSU has breached the Plaintiff’s employment contract,
among other things, by preventing him from performing his duties, by placing him on “administrative leave,” by requiring him to return his contractually-provided vehicle, and by constructively terminating his employment. 180. As a result of the WSU’s breach of contract, Plaintiff has suffered injury and damage for
which WSU is liable. Such monetary damages include, without limitation, unpaid salary, lost benefits and consequential damages.
Count Two: Tortious Interference with Contract (As to all Defendants except WSU, and as to Freeland, Flynn, Queenin, and Scheibel in both their individual and official capacities) 181. Plaintiff incorporates by reference paragraphs 1 to 173, as if fully set forth herein.
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The agreement between Dr. Dobelle and WSU is a valid contract. Defendants (excluding WSU), with knowledge of this valid agreement, intentionally and
improperly attempted to prevent Dr. Dobelle from rending full performance pursuant to that contract. 184. Defendants, with knowledge of this valid agreement, intentionally and improperly
induced WSU to break the employment contract with the Plaintiff, by among other things, accusing the Plaintiff of financial improprieties and publicizing accusations that had already been addressed. 185. The actions of the Defendants (excluding WSU) were intentional, the motive of which
was to compel the University to breach Dr. Dobelle’s employment contract and to prevent Dr. Dobelle from being able to perform his duties, and, consequentially, to destroy his reputation with the public at large. 186. As a result of the tortious interference with Dr. Dobelle’s employment contract, Dr.
Dobelle suffered injury and damages for which the Defendants (excluding WSU) are jointly and severally liable, in an amount to be determined at trial.
Count Three: Violation of 42 U.S.C § 1983 (As to Flynn, Freeland, Scheibel and Queenin in their Individual Capacities only) 187. 188. Plaintiff incorporates by reference paragraphs 1 to 173, as if fully set forth herein. The actions of the individual Defendants set forth above violated plaintiff’s right of free
speech as guaranteed by the First and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution. 189. Moreover, based on Massachusetts contract law, WSU made an enforceable promise to
Dr. Dobelle not to suspend him or fire him without cause or severance pay. Thus, Dr. Dobelle
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has a constitutionally protected property interest in his employment, within the meaning of the Fourteenth Amendment Due Process Clause. 190. Dr. Dobelle did not and has not received the full measure of due process to protect his
property interest. 191. Dr. Dobelle further has a liberty interest in his reputation, as guaranteed by the
Fourteenth Amendment Due Process Clause. 192. The media frenzy that has developed as a result of the Defendants’ actions has harmed
severely Dr. Dobelle’s reputation such that it will likely be impossible for him to find comparable work. Indeed, the actions of the individual defendants set forth above have stigmatized Dr. Dobelle, causing him to be the object of scorn and ridicule, thereby violating Dr. Dobelle’s liberty interest in his good name, in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution. 193. The individual defendants have acted under color of state law through the above-
described actions. 194. The individual defendants have violated Dr. Dobelle’s right to due process of law under
the Fourteenth Amendment, and rights as guaranteed under the First Amendment. Therefore, Dr. Dobelle is entitled to a remedy for those violations pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983.
Count Four - Negligent Misrepresentation (As to O’Connor & Drew, P.C. only) 195. 196. Plaintiff incorporates by reference paragraphs 1 to 173 as if fully set forth herein. O&D prepared several drafts of its report, all of which were provided to WSU, the media,
state officials, and Dr. Dobelle. 197. These reports were prepared in the course of O&D’s business.
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O&D knew or should have known that it was unqualified to perform the work it was
hired to perform. 199. The draft O&D reports contained numerous statements of fact that were incorrect.
Moreover, the opinions provided by O&D were also incorrect. The O&D reports contained false information about Dr. Dobelle and did not follow the applicable standard of care for accounting or forensics firms. 200. 201. O&D supplied this false information to WSU for its use. O&D knew or should have known that the drafts would or could be made public, at one
point or another, due to WSU’s status as a public university. 202. The false draft O&D reports caused and resulted in pecuniary loss to Dr. Dobelle through
their release to the public, which result should have been known to O&D. 203. Various stories regarding the O&D reports ultimately were reported by news
organizations, including The Boston Globe. 204. O&D failed to exercise reasonable care or competence in communicating the information
through its false and misleading draft reports. 205. O&D knew that Dr. Dobelle and WSU were relying on O&D to conduct a fair and
impartial review. 206. O&D is thus liable for the full amount of damages caused to Dr. Dobelle in an amount to
be determined at trial.
Count Five - Civil Conspiracy (As to all Defendants) 207. herein. Plaintiff incorporates by reference paragraphs 1-186 and 195-206 as if fully set forth
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The Defendants have committed the respective tortious acts as referenced in Counts One,
Two, and Four. 209. The Defendants acted in concert in their investigation and constructive termination of Dr.
Dobelle from his position as President. 210. The Defendants actions were in furtherance of this common design or agreement --
namely the constructive termination of Dr. Dobelle as President of WSU. 211. As a result of Dr. Dobelle’s “administrative leave” and constructive discharge, and other
damages suffered, he has been damaged by the civil conspiracy of the Defendants.
Count Six - Defamation Per Se (As to Defendants Cox and Rubin & Rudman) 212. 213. Plaintiff incorporates by reference paragraphs 1 to 173 as if fully set forth herein. On Friday, September 20, 2013, the Secretary of Education and the Commissioner of
Higher Education, as well as members of the Board of Higher Education, held a public meeting with the WSU Board of Trustees to address issues related to reports prepared by O&D. 214. 215. 216. Many members of the broadcast and print media attended the meeting. Cox, a partner at Rubin & Rudman, participated as counsel for WSU and its Board. Among the questions raised by the state officials was a request for an explanation of a
transfer of funds from WSU to the WSU Foundation. 217. Cox responded to that request by indicating that Dr. Dobelle unilaterally authorized that
transfer pursuant to his purported authority to expend up to $500,000 without approval from the Board.
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In his explanation, Cox concealed the involvement of other WSU administrators,
members of the WSU Board, legal counsel (his own law firm), and WSU’s independent auditor in this matter. 219. That same day, The Boston Globe reported the interaction as follows: a. “State officials were particularly alarmed that the university appeared to be financially propping up the fund-raisers at the Westfield State College Foundation, transferring $400,000 to the foundation in 2010 to help cover costs, including Dobelle’s expenses.” b. “’The foundation’s mission is to support the university, not the other way around,’ said State Education Secretary Matthew Malone. ‘Taxpayers deserve to know why money intended to support a public university was used to support a nonprofit foundation.’” c. “’How did it happen?’” Freeland asked Jack Flynn, chairman of the Westfield State board of trustees. d. “’It’s a question I don’t have an answer to now,’” Flynn said. e. “A Westfield staff member explained that Dobelle had authority to spend up to $500,000 without board approval.” f. “’It’s a very big number for presidential discretion,’” said Freeland, adding that as a state commissioner he can only authorize spending up to $5,000. 220. The Boston Globe’s article was headlined “State education chief blasts board over
Westfield State spending,” and is available online at http://www.bostonglobe.com/metro/2013/09/20/patrick-administration-grills-westfield-stateuniversity-trustees-about-presidentdobelle/a4tbefsmJ4zpD1DA1m6FuL/story.html.
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The “Westfield staff member” referenced in The Boston Globe article is Cox. The statements to state officials and the press on September 20th are false, despite the
fact that the truth was known to Cox when he made the statements. 223. Cox had, in fact, been given the responsibility of assembling relevant facts to respond in
writing to a September 12, 2013 request by the Chairman of the Massachusetts Board of Higher Education to the WSU Board for “a full and written explanation of any transfer of public funds to the Westfield State Foundation in the past five fiscal years.” 224. A draft memorandum had been prepared prior to the September 20th meeting by Rubin &
Rudman outlining the relevant facts. 225. Cox’s statements were made in concert with Rubin & Rudman because the firm had been
consulted in advance about the circumstances giving rise to the transfer of funds at issue, and had knowledge that other WSU administrators, members of the WSU Board, legal counsel, and WSU’s independent auditors were likewise intimately familiar with the facts leading up to the ultimate approval of that transfer. 226. The false statements were made to avoid potentially embarrassing admissions that would
have diminished Rubin & Rudman’s stature in the community. 227. On or about September 25, 2013, counsel for Dr. Dobelle wrote to Cox demanding that
he retract such statements and correct them in the press. 228. 229. To date, he and Rubin & Rudman have failed to do so. The statements regarding the transfer of funds from WSU to the Foundation were made
with knowledge that they could damage Dr. Dobelle’s reputation in the community. 230. The identified Defendants were at fault for making such false statements.
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The statements are actionable without proof of economic loss because the statements
prejudice Dr. Dobelle’s profession or business. Such statements suggest that Dr. Dobelle transferred funds improperly and without the approval of others. Those suggestions and statements are patently false.
PRAYER FOR RELIEF WHEREFORE, Dr. Dobelle respectfully requests this Court to enter judgment against Defendants as follows: 1. An award of compensatory and applicable pecuniary damages from Defendants in
an amount to be determined at trial; 2. An order awarding damages and prejudgment and postjudgment interest, in an
amount to be determined at trial; 3. at trial; 4. Consequential damages, as may be appropriate for a particular count, in an An order awarding Dr. Dobelle punitive damages, in an amount to be determined
amount to be determined at trial; 5. An award of attorneys’ fees and costs, in an amount to be determined at trial,
pursuant to state and federal law, including 42 U.S.C. Section 1988; 6. An order enjoining the individual Defendants from interfering in any manner with
Plaintiff's exercise of rights secured by the First and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution or from basing any action regarding Plaintiff's employment upon Plaintiff's exercise of First Amendment rights; 7. Nominal damages;
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An order awarding such other and further relief as this Court deems just and
JURY DEMAND Plaintiff Demands Trial By Jury On All Issues Properly Triable To a Jury. PLAINTIFF, DR. EVAN S. DOBELLE
/s/ Katherine M. Romel Katherine M. Romel (BBO #680186) Ross H. Garber (pro hac vice forthcoming) Daniel A. Schwartz (pro hac vice forthcoming) Sara J. Goldfarb (pro hac vice forthcoming) For Shipman & Goodwin LLP One Constitution Plaza Hartford, Connecticut 06103 Tel.: (860) 251-5000 Fax: (860) 251-5218 His Attorneys
By___/s/ Darrell Mook_________________ Darrell Mook, BBO# 546754 Donovan Hatem LLP 53 State Street Boston, MA 02109 Tel: (617) 406-4500 Fax: (617) 406-4501 His Attorneys