Judge Rejects Mediation in Lawsuit Against Westfield State University
Former President of Westfield State University in Massachusetts, Evan S. Dobelle, has seen his request to take his lawsuit against the state’s Higher Education Commissioner Richard M. Freeland and three Westfield State trustees to mediation rejected. The judge, Kenneth P. Neiman, rejected the request on the grounds that it is too soon in the discovery process to begin negotiating for a settlement. Dobelle resigned from his post as University President two weeks earlier amidst investigations into his spending on travel and accommodations using university and state money.
Judge Neiman ordered six months for continued discovery followed immediately by a management conference, where mediation may again be requested. He gave no indication if a mediation request would find a better result at that time.
Dobelle is suing the state and the university for the loss of income he will experience due to being forced to resign despite his insistence that he did nothing wrong. His lost earnings have been calculated at $1.6 million, assuming he would have continued in his post until his planned retirement at age 75.
Dobelle is the subject of two state investigations into his spending on hotels, food, transportation and trips abroad to San Francisco, China, Vietnam, Thailand, Hong Kong and other regions of the world while President of the university. No charges have been brought, and both investigations are ongoing. Dobelle has stated that he reimbursed the university for any personal expenditure, and that his travel was always beneficial to the university and was spent conducting university business.