Embattled Westfield State University President Evan Dobelle has filed a federal court lawsuit claiming several members of the board of trustees and a top state education official have defamed him.
The lawsuit, filed Thursday in U.S. District Court in Springfield names the chairman of the Westfield State Board of Trustees, John Flynn, two other trustees, and Massachusetts Higher Education Commissioner Richard Freeland as defendants. A 40 page complaint alleges Dobelle’s reputation, his contract and his due process rights have been violated by a “ guerilla war” for control of the school. The suit, which seeks unspecified damages, is the latest development in a heated controversy over Dobelle’s spending on foreign and domestic travel and entertainment. Last week, the board of trustees put Dobelle on paid leave and hired a Boston law firm to investigate his spending. Freeland froze certain funding to the school and has questioned if Dobelle can continue as president. Both Flynn and Freeland have scoffed at Dobelle’s claims that they are pursuing hidden agendas.