Embattled Westfield State University President Evan Dobelle filed a federal lawsuit against university trustees and a state official today, alleging that they conspired to destroy Dobelle’s reputation by accusing him of lavish spending and misuse of university credit cards.
Dobelle, who was placed on paid leave from his job last week while university lawyers investigate allegations of reckless spending on travel, hotels, high-end restaurants, as well as personal expenses, said the whole investigation was part of a smear campaign intended to derail his leadership and let his enemies take over the school.
Dobelle has claimed that board chairman Jack Flynn, a top State Police official, wants to gain control of the university to turn it into a “diploma mill” for State Police officers. He also has said that state Higher Education Commissioner Richard Freeland wants Dobelle’s job. For Flynn and Freeland to get their way, they had to attack Dobelle, he contends.
“Dr. Dobelle’s long-celebrated career has been swiftly, unjustly and perhaps irreparably damaged,” according to Dobelle’s complaint, filed in federal court in Springfield late this afternoon. “In addition to Dr. Dobelle’s reputation, his contract and due process rights … have been casualties in Freeland and Flynn’s guerilla war for control of the university.”
Dobelle, who described himself as a “visionary” who is “renowned” for his leadership, said he would be seeking compensatory and punitive damages for the damage to his reputation and interference with his contract under which he’s paid more than $240,000 a year.
Flynn and Freeland could not be immediately reached for comment, but both have previously dismissed Dobelle’s allegations as outrageous and baseless.