Dr. David Lassner
President, University of Hawaii System
Bachman Hall 202
2444 Dole Street
Honolulu, HI 96822
Re: Confirmation of Notification of Violations of Law and My Contract
Dear Dr. Lassner:
As you know, I was appointed as Chancellor of the University of Hawai‘i at Manoa
(“UH”) pursuant to an offer letter from the President of the UH dated May 5, 2012 which I
accepted on May 7, 2012 and which was approved by the Board of Regents on May 9, 2012.
My appointment followed a national search led by *(see note below)Keil who headed
a 23-member committee from the UH. My appointment contract was for a five-year term, which
extends through June 30, 2017. To accept the offered position and contract at the UH, I had to
relinquish my position at the University of Delaware where I was Provost and where I was due to
make $450,000 the next year. The position at UH paid a salary of $439,000 a year, plus various
benefits. Also, in order to accept the UH position, I had to sell my home in Delaware, at a loss
of more than $215,000. I thus heavily relied on the UH honoring its five-year commitment to me
and to my family. My wife, of course, also relocated with me and similarly relied upon the UH
honoring its commitment.
When I accepted the UH position, I also relied upon being able to do the work asked of
me consistent with my job description. This included the very specific responsibility for the
management of finances at the UH. Some of the most relevant portions of my job description are
set out here:
Provides executive leadership and direction to administrators,
faculty, and staff by establishing goals and objectives, and
ensuring that day-to-day operations, administration and
management are executed efficiently and in conformity with
governing policies and procedures.
* * *
Allocates and reallocates resources, as appropriate, in conformity
with institutional priorities, applicable laws, rules and policies.
* * *
Provides executive leadership in raising funds and obtaining
resources for UH Mānoa to enhance the ability of the institution
to provide financial support for students, and to provide resources
for innovative and creative enterprises, endowments, and academic
programs and services.
Chancellor the University of Hawai‘i at Manoa Job Description (emphasis added).
It thus was, and remains, a key part of my duties and legal responsibilities to attempt to
balance the budget for the UH. To do so, I must be free to explore all reasonable means to
achieve cost savings in the interests of the UH and its students, and Hawai‘i’s taxpayers. The
scope of this responsibility specifically includes the John A. Burns School of Medicine
(“JABSOM”) and the University of Hawai‘i Cancer Center (“UHCC”).
As you know, my job was made much more challenging last year, when the Legislature
unexpectedly cut our funding by $7 million. I then had to identify places where those cuts could
be made up. It took a lot of work, but I did so. The “make up” included a modest $1 million
reallocation from the JABSOM — which then had a total $10 million surplus which had been
increasing, year-to-year in total carry-forward and which has a long history of having been
heavily subsidized by tuition funds from other departments at UH-Manoa. Despite the need for
this reallocation, and despite there being strong and prudent reasons for it, I have encountered
extraordinary resistance in efforts to do this from the dean of JABSOM. You have mentioned
relying upon his counsel in your critical comments on my leadership.
I also identified the need to address very serious looming financial shortfalls with the
UHCC, which is currently overspending its current income by $10 million per year and which is
rapidly eating up its limited reserves of slightly more than $30 million. This pattern threatens its
ability to continue, including as a national cancer institute center, a key designation for it. The
UHCC’s director is Dr. Michele Carbone. Dr. Carbone has a history of vigorously opposing
those who seek to curb his overspending or who otherwise attempt to prudently manage him.
These include Gary Ostrander, Reed Dasenbrock, and Brian Taylor. I also acted to protect
faculty that were attacked by Dr. Carbone. These include Larry Kolonel, Loic Le Marchand,
Lynne Wilkens, Carl Vogel, Adriane Francke, and Robert Cooney. I thus also attempted to
address the lavish overspending by Dr. Carbone, for example the inexplicable attempt to hire an
assistant, Shreya Kanodia, for $300,000 per year who had just two years earlier been a post-doc.
I have encountered extraordinary resistance to this from Dr. Carbone, from you and others
including the Board Chair. You have mentioned this frequently as a reason for loss of
confidence in me from you and the Board. I hasten to add that I admire Dr. Carbone’s vision and
he has done some excellent work — however, the financial and personnel issues still must be
I took each of these actions in good faith and in a straight-forward and prudent manner.
I believed that my job responsibilities and the law required me to take on these very difficult
financial and personnel decisions. In this context, I was, thus, extremely disappointed to have
received overt pressure from you, as a result of these actions, in the form of recent threats to
terminate me. I believe that this is a direct result of the actions I have taken to comply with my
job description and applicable law.
I want to state clearly that I intend to continue to attempt to do my job to the best of my
ability. I do very respectfully ask that you work with me, so that I can continue to do this
necessary, but difficult work and that there be no further retaliation against me or threats to
terminate my position as a result of raising these and related issues.
Thank you for your assistance.
Very truly yours,
Tom Apple, Chancellor
xc: The Honorable Neil Abercrombie, Governor
The Honorable Shan S. Tsutsui, Lieutenant Governor
Mr. Randy Moore, Board of Regents
*Names were whited out for privacy considerations