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AG Sues Former Westfield State President For Using School Money For Personal Trips

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Westfield State University. (Credit: Westfield State)

Westfield State University. (Credit: Westfield State)

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BOSTON (CBS) – Attorney General Martha Coakley has filed a lawsuit against former Westfield State president Evan Dobelle for allegedly using school funding for personal benefit.

Dobelle allegedly used school-issued credit cards and money to take vacations and make personal purchases totaling around $100,000. The trips included travel to Cuba with fancy meals and to a men’s social club in California.

The suit also alleges Dobelle intentionally submitted fraudulent payment claims for personal expenses for at least $59,000 between 2008 and 2013. Dobelle also allegedly filed another $39,000 in travel expenses.

“We allege the former president of this university blatantly misused public funds for trips that were nothing but weeklong vacations with family and friends,” Coakley said in a statement Thursday.

“This pattern of inappropriately spending state money is unacceptable, as leaders of public schools should be enforcing their policies instead of knowingly violating them for their own personal benefit.”

The expenses stemmed from payment claims Dobelle made for trips he said were university-planned, according to the AG’s office. He said he performed fundraising and alumni relations, but the AG’s office said the trips were personal vacations.

The AG’s office began investigating Dobelle last fall when it received a report of his alleged misdeeds from the Inspector General’s office. Dobelle, who served from 2008 to 2013 as the school’s president, apparently reimbursed the school for some expenses, but only months after they were charged. He allegedly used backdated checks to make the payments appear timely.

The AG’s office is seeking monetary damages, civil penalties, attorneys fees and other investigation-related costs from Dobelle.

The AG’s office said the lawsuit does not prevent further action against Dobelle.

There has been no comment yet from him.

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