Gov. Deval Patrick says he supports Westfield State fund freeze because of concerns over President Evan Dobelle’s spending

Boston, MA 092013 Evan Dobelle (cq), President of Westfield State University, appeared on September 20, 2013 in a closed-door meeting of the State Board of Higher Educations. He is under scrutiny for lavish spending on personable or questionable expenses. (Essdras M Suarez/ Globe Staff/ MET)
Westfield State University president Evan Dobelle met with the Board of Higher Education in a closed-door meeting on Sept. 20.
Essdras M. Suarez/Globe Staff

Governor Deval Patrick said today that he supported state education officials’ move to freeze state funding for Westfield State University, saying that there are “very, very serious concerns” about the spending of the university’s president Evan Dobelle.

Higher Education Commissioner Richard M. Freeland announced the plan to hold funding last week after Dobelle failed to meet a deadline to submit a detailed defense of his controversial spending habits.

Patrick said he supported Freeland’s move. “Look, I’m not interested, and Commissioner Freeland isn’t interested, in freezing funds for the sake of freezing funds,” he said.

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“These are very, very serious concerns that have been raised about the spending of the president of Westfield State, who has otherwise done some very good things at Westfield State. But it’s more and more apparent that he’s not taking these concerns seriously. And they are serious and they need to be, and will be, taken seriously,” Patrick said at a media availablity in Pittsfield this morning, according to a transcript provided by the governor’s office.

Asked if he thought the funding would be restored short of Dobelle leaving his post, Patrick said, “Well, I think it’s too soon to say that. But I think he’s not helping himself by apparently not taking this seriously and having a spokesman he’s hired ... back in Boston whose job it seems to be to trivialize the role of the Board of Higher Ed and the board of Westfield State. And that is not acceptable.”

The funding freeze announced Friday included $2 million for a new science building. The move by Freeland was seen as increasing pressure on the university’s board of trustees to act against Dobelle. The board has slated a meeting for Oct. 16, the Globe reported Saturday.

An attorney for Dobelle suggested Saturday that the board of trustees had broken laws in inquiring into the administrator’s controversial spending habits.

Dobelle’s spokesman, well-known Boston public relations bigwig George K. Regan, denounced the board’s inquiry Saturday.

“This was an improper and illegal investigation from the very beginning,” Regan told the Globe Saturday by e-mail.