Gov. Patrick, Ed. Commissioner Critical Of Westfield State's Dobelle

Oct 7, 2013

Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick meets with Pittsfield High School students Monday.
Credit Jim Levulis

Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick and Higher Education Commissioner Richard Freeland have frozen state educational funds for Westfield State University after the recent allegations of illegal spending, including private travel expenses, by President Evan Dobelle.

“I’m not interested and Commissioner Freeland isn’t interested in freezing anybody’s funds for the sake of freezing funds,” Patrick told WAMC News Monday in Pittsfield. “These are very, very serious concerns that have been raised about the spending of the president at Westfield State, who has otherwise done some very good things at Westfield State, but it’s more and more apparent that he is not taking these concerns seriously, and they are serious and need to be and will be taken seriously.”

Dobelle has been accused of using public funds to pay for personal travel including more than 15 trips to San Francisco.

“He’s not helping himself by apparently not taking this seriously… and by having a spokesperson he’s hired back in Boston whose job seems to be to trivialize the role of the Board of Higher Ed. and the Board of Westfield State, and that is not acceptable,” Patrick said.

The Board of Trustees for Westfield State is slated to meet Oct. 16 to discuss the potential suspension of Dobelle until the investigation is over.

“We agree with it wholeheartedly and as the governor has said, until these very serious allegations are addressed, he’s forced us into this position, the board is now taking a look at this,” Massachusetts Education Secretary Matthew Malone said. “We are expecting them to take this serious and to address it at their meeting on the 16th.”

In addition to the freeze, a $2 million project for a science center has been put on hold.

“We are not punishing the students; these are capital dollars for buildings that aren’t student aid dollars, and this is a serious concern, and until the president responds in a serious manner these funds will be withheld,” Malone added.