University of Louisville

J. Tyler Franklin

A judge has denied Gov. Matt Bevin’s request to vacate a ruling against the governor’s overhaul of the University of Louisville Board of Trustees.

The governor’s office requested the modification earlier this week, saying that the court had misinterpreted facts in the case and made a “manifest error of law” in its legal analysis.

Franklin Circuit Court Judge Phillip Shepherd ruled last month that Bevin didn’t have the authority to abolish the U of L board because trustees couldn’t be removed without cause. On Friday, Shepherd ruled that “there is no reason to re-open this case, or to delay its finality, with additional arguments.”

Bevin argued that he didn’t “remove” board members but instead abolished the board in its entirety, which the governor says he had the authority to do.

In the decision from Friday, Shepherd once again ruled that abolishing the board amounted to removing its members.

J. Tyler Franklin

The University of Louisville has asked a judge to overrule an Attorney General’s opinion that it wrongly refused to release records related to its basketball scandal.

U of L filed suit Friday in Jefferson Circuit Court against a blogger who sought documents related to then-president James Ramsey’s decision in February to remove the men’s basketball team from postseason contention. The attorney general’s office ruled the documents were wrongly withheld.

The attorney general’s decision on Sept. 1 stated that U of L improperly denied a request from Peter Hasselbacher, who typically covers health and research issues on his blog, the Kentucky Health Policy Institute. The university’s suit seeks attorney’s fees and names Hasselbacher the defendant, as required by Kentucky law.

“I anticipated this was coming but when you’re hit with a lawsuit that wants you to pay legal fees and other damages, that makes you sit up and take notice,” Hasselbacher said Tuesday afternoon.

John Karman, U of L spokesman, declined to comment on the lawsuit.

J. Tyler Frankin

A judge has ruled that Gov. Matt Bevin cannot unilaterally reorganize a public university’s board of trustees and dismiss all of its members, calling it an “unprecedented assertion of executive power.”

In June, Bevin issued an executive order abolishing the University of Louisville’s board of trustees, citing dysfunction on the board. He later created a new board and appointed all new members. Attorney General Andy Beshear sued Bevin over the move.

Though state law allows governors to unilaterally reorganize state boards, the power had never been applied to a public university board.

On Wednesday, Franklin Circuit Court Judge Phillip Shepherd ruled that the governor can’t remove public university board members without cause.

“Governors, who have not been shy about asserting executive powers, have dealt with these situations by requesting (and obtaining) resignations of board members, or have allowed the disputes to be settled through the normal administrative and judicial processes,” Shepherd wrote in his opinion. “No prior Governor has ever attempted to invoke the re-organization power…to address problems in the governance of public universities.”

James Ramsey Resigns From U of L Foundation

Sep 16, 2016
J. Tyler Franklin

The embattled former president of the University of Louisville stepped down Friday from his second job as president of the university’s foundation.

James Ramsey said in a letter distributed by the foundation board that he voluntarily resigned as university president — “although my contract allowed me to stay in that position until 2020” — because he and his wife have been considering retirement for some time. Ramsey stepped down in June via a $690,000 buyout but signaled no intentions to leave his foundation role.

The letter stated that Ramsey would also leave his foundation role to pursue retirement on a date convenient to the board, “no later than Jan. 1, 2017,” but board chairman Bob Hughes said the resignation is effective Friday — and with no additional payments.

Ramsey’s resignation and a few other actions are enough to hold off any lawsuit for now, said U of L board chair Larry Benz. Benz had threatened to file suit against the foundation for withholding records he sought but laid out a “pathway to restored confidence” he said would prevent that lawsuit.

Ryland Barton

Students at the University of Louisville could lose federal financial aid and the ability to transfer class credits if the school loses its accreditation. That’s what the attorney general and an expert witness warn will happen if Gov. Matt Bevin is allowed to unilaterally overhaul the school’s governing body.

The governor’s office argues that U of L is not immediately at risk of losing its accreditation and that a lawsuit over the matter will be settled by the time the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools could impose any sanctions, settling whether the governor has the authority to abolish and restructure a university board without legislative approval.

Steve Pitt, the governor’s general counsel, said there’s no legal reason the school has to be accredited, but he still downplayed worries that U of L could lose its accreditation

“There is no statute in Kentucky, oddly enough, that even requires public universities to even be accredited,” Pitt said. “I think you’ll see that there’s a lot more smoke here than there is fire.”

J. Tyler Franklin

WFPL’s Kentucky Center for Investigative Reporting has filed a lawsuit against the University of Louisville Foundation, the latest step in an ongoing public records fight.

The Foundation, led by former U of L President James Ramsey, manages the university’s some $700 million endowment.

The suit, filed Thursday in Jefferson Circuit Court, seeks an injunction to force the Foundation. to release ethics and disclosure forms, along with payroll and financial documents first requested by KyCIR in February.

The Foundation has resisted releasing the documents, saying the records requests were burdensome because they were “overly broad and blanket in nature.”

J. Tyler Franklin

A state judge has denied Republican Gov. Matt Bevin's request to block an expert witness' testimony about the University of Louisville's accreditation.

Bevin abolished and replaced the University of Louisville board of trustees earlier this year. Democratic Attorney General Andy Beshear sued him, saying the order was illegal. Franklin Circuit Judge Phillip Shepherd temporarily blocked Bevin's order, but asked both sides to present testimony from expert witnesses about how Bevin's order would impact the school's accreditation.

Bevin attorney Chad Meredith declined to present an expert witness, and asked Shepherd to block a witness called by Beshear. He said the testimony was not relevant to the issue of whether Bevin has the authority to replace the board.

Shepherd called Bevin's request a "dramatic change in direction" and denied it. The hearing is continuing Thursday.

J. Tyler Franklin

Facing growing scrutiny from donors and its own university, the University of Louisville Foundation is paying $11,500 a month in retainers alone for external public relations firms.

In contract proposals submitted in July, the firms shed light on strategies they intended to employ to combat rampant criticism of the Foundation.

The documents, obtained by WFPL’s Kentucky Center for Investigative Reporting, suggest the Foundation is gearing up to try to counter negative stories in the press and highlight achievements of its president, James Ramsey, during his 14-year tenure.

Last month, Foundation staffers signed contract extensions for two Louisville firms: RunSwitch Public Relations, led by political strategist Scott Jennings, and Tandem Public Relations, led by Sandra Frazier. Both contracts were extended as of Sept. 1.

University of Louisville

U.S. Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan will be honored this week by the University of Louisville law school.

Kagan will receive the 2016 Brandeis Medal. It’s named for Louis Brandeis, a former justice and law school namesake.

She’ll be in Louisville Thursday, when she’s scheduled to place a wreath at Brandeis’ gravesite at the law school.  Kagan will receive the medal at an evening ceremony at the Seelbach Hotel.

Law school dean Susan Duncan says that’s when Kagan will be interviewed by one of her protégés.

“The person who will be conversing with her, interviewing her is a professor named Justin Walker, who was actually her law student when she was the dean at Harvard,” says Duncan. “And he is a former Supreme Court clerk himself.”

J. Tyler Franklin

In an effort to clean up a “culture of secrecy,” the University of Louisville Board of Trustees voted Friday to potentially sue its own foundation.

Trustees authorized Chairman Larry Benz to work with outside lawyers to prepare and initiate a lawsuit against the University of Louisville Foundation if they don’t follow a “pathway toward restored confidence” Benz laid out after the meeting. With numerous members of the board and acting President Neville Pinto standing behind him, Benz said upwards of 70 donors have contacted the university to demand drastic change before giving another dime to the foundation.

“Their message has been convincing and consistent: Clean up the Foundation,” Benz said. “It is an eyesore for the community.”

Trustee Bob Hughes, who is also chairman of the Foundation, abstained from voting. The only vote against the measure was from Ron Butt, who called it divisive and said he would resign his seat, effective Friday.

Ramsey's Status with U of L Foundation Sparks More Debate

Aug 28, 2016
J. Tyler Franklin

Former University of Louisville President James Ramsey's status with the UofL Foundation is sparking more debate among top officials.

The Courier-Journal reports the UofL Foundation's chairman took issue Friday with a suggestion by the school's Board of Trustees chairman that Ramsey should resign as foundation president to clear the way for recruiting a new university president.

Dr. Bob Hughes, the foundation's chairman, said promoting "harmony" will give UofL the best chance at recruiting an excellent new president. Hughes says Board of Trustees Chairman Larry Benz should keep his comments "on the high road."

Benz said Thursday that UofL would not be "attractive" to potential recruits for the presidency if Ramsey was serving as foundation president.

The foundation is scheduled to meet on an unspecified date in September.

J. Tyler Franklin

The “old” University of Louisville Board of Trustees met Thursday for the first time since the governor disbanded it in June.

The agenda was limited and their actions modest, due to a pending lawsuit over whether Gov. Matt Bevin had the right to create a new board.

Even before Bevin’s attempted reorganization, the board was hamstrung by a different lawsuit taking aim at the racial imbalance of the group. And as the political maneuvering and legal fights played out in recent months, the board’s to-do list grew.

In past months, the trustees should have been approving decisions on tenure, promotions and new hires. A budget that should have gone into effect in July was temporarily replaced with a stopgap spending plan. The trustees took those delayed votes on Thursday.

J. Tyler Franklin

The judge presiding over a challenge to Gov. Matt Bevin’s overhaul of the University of Louisville board of trustees expressed frustration on Tuesday that the opposing parties hadn’t come to an agreement on which version of the U of L board should be in charge of the school.

Attorney General Andy Beshear sued Bevin for abolishing the 17-member U of L board and replacing it with a 10-member board made up of his own appointments.

Franklin Circuit Court Judge Philip Shepherd temporarily blocked the move late last month, effectively restoring the old version of the board, which Bevin scrapped in June.

On Tuesday, Shepherd said he had been optimistic that questions about the school’s governance would settle after the temporary injunction, but now he’s “concerned.”

“I was still hopeful that there would be some agreement or some consensus that would develop without any issues with regard to the governance of the university while the case is pending,” Shepherd said. “It is now, I think, abundantly apparent to the court that that is not going to happen.”

As a result, Shepherd said the court will expedite proceedings of the case.

J. Tyler Franklin

Gov. Matt Bevin has asked the Kentucky Court of Appeals to overturn an order that blocked his overhaul of the University of Louisville Board of Trustees.

Bevin dissolved the 17-member board by executive order in June, alleging dysfunction among the group. He later reconstituted it as a 10-member board.

Earlier this month, Franklin Circuit Court Judge Philip Shephard temporarily blocked the move in the midst of a challenge brought on by Attorney General Andy Beshear.

In a motion filed with the Kentucky Court of Appeals, Bevin’s attorneys said that the court “abused its discretion” in blocking the overhaul.

U of L Board Case To Stretch Until At Least October

Aug 16, 2016
University of Louisville

The battle over the University of Louisville Board of Trustees won’t be resolved in court until October at the earliest.

Franklin Circuit Judge Phillip Shepherd signed an order Friday that sets a timeline for the lawsuit filed by Attorney General Beshear against Gov. Matt Bevin. Shepherd will hear motions from both sides on Oct. 4, after allowing for several weeks of legal filings in which they can lay out their respective cases.

Beshear sued the governor in June after he dissolved the old 17-member U of L board and replaced it with a new 10-member panel. Beshear’s office has argued that Bevin had no authority to disband the school’s governing board, and that state law protects university trustees from termination without cause and due process.

The governor’s office has since argued that the overhaul was necessary to bring the board in alignment with a state law that requires the board to reflect the racial and political makeup in the state. The old board had too few minority members and too many Democrats.