Senate panel wants audit of University of Hawaii


HONOLULU — A state Senate panel said Monday that the University of Hawaii could have avoided losing $200,000 in its failed attempt to hold an athletic department fundraiser if officials had performed due diligence on a company claiming to be Stevie Wonder’s booking agent.

No one at the university looked into whether Epic Talent LLC was an authorized representative of the singer, the Senate Special Committee on Accountability said in its report on the so called “Wonder Blunder.”

The bungled concert and its aftermath have tarnished the university’s reputation nationally and within the state, the report said.

The school hasn’t been able to recover $200,000 it wired to Epic as a deposit after it began selling tickets in advance for the concert, which was scheduled for August. The university called off the event July 10, shortly after the singer’s actual agents at Creative Artists Agency contacted them saying Epic had no authority to set up events for Wonder.

A North Carolina man is scheduled to be arraigned in federal court in Honolulu this week on charges he scammed the university.

A lack of oversight and communication among officials in the school’s athletic department, general counsel and disbursing office contributed to the problem, the report found.

“The university staff that was involved with the concert all seemed to believe that it was someone else’s responsibility to conduct due diligence and to make sure the university was protected,” the report said.

Athletic Director Jim Donavan approved the concert but failed to provide other oversight.

He left Stan Sheriff Center Manager Rick Sheriff to handle the concert, but Sheriff told the committee he was “merely the communicator” between the university and Bob Peyton, the Hawaii-based promoter who was working with Epic.

Sheriff “left everything else up to his supervisors,” while Sheriff’s direct supervisors “did not provide any oversight,” the report said.

The committee made 18 recommendations in its report. The first suggests that the Legislature audit the university’s finances and management.