Donor cancels planned $100,000 gift to Westfield State

Friday, August 30, 2013

A major donor has withdrawn a planned $100,000 gift to Westfield State University, saying he was “appalled at the lavish spending” by president Evan Dobelle, joining a growing backlash against the school after reports that Dobelle used the school’s private fund-raising arm to foot the bill for luxury hotels, limousine rides, and other high-end purchases, including a trip to Asia.

A long-awaited review, part of which was obtained by the Globe this week, of Dobelle’s spending habits, shows that Dobelle freely mixed personal spending with official business in credit card charges of more than $180,209 billed to the Westfield State College Foundation over a 30-month period. Even after months of analysis, however, the accountant who conducted the review said it was impossible to tell whether many of the expenses were legitimate.

Though Dobelle repaid $34,854, the review found, some reimbursements arrived up to three years after the fact — at a time when the accountant had already begun reviewing Dobelle’s expenditures. And some personal charges such as clothing purchases and travel for Dobelle’s family, the review found, should not have been charged to the foundation in the first place.

“I am hopeful that Mr. Dobelle will either reimburse the college or step down,” John P. Walsh, president of Elizabeth Grady skin care salons, wrote to the Globe in an e-mail explaining his decision to withdraw a $100,000 pledge to the foundation, which raises money for scholarships and educational programs at Westfield State.

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