Conway: Not enough minorities on University of Louisville board; - WDRB 41 Louisville News

Conway: Not enough minorities on University of Louisville board; Steve Wilson resigns to make way for African American

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Steve Wilson Steve Wilson

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- Louisville businessman and philanthropist Steve Wilson resigned from the University of Louisville Board of Trustees on Tuesday to allow Gov. Steve Beshear to appoint an African American in his place.

After three appointments that took effect July 1, the board has been without an African American member for the first time in decades.

On Tuesday, Attorney General Jack Conway's office ruled that the board's current composition -- with only one minority member, former Kindred Healthcare CEO Paul Diaz -- violates state law. Beshear should address the situation, Conway's office ruled.

Click HERE to view a copy of the ruling.

In a statement, Beshear said he will seek out an African American to fill the vacancy created by Wilson's resignation.

"As I have said before, while we make every effort to comply with all the different requirements placed on these appointments by statute, because of all the different categories and factors required to be considered, and because terms expire at different times, there will always be situations when a particular board may not exactly fulfill every single requirement for a period of time," Beshear said.

Wilson said in a letter to Beshear that without a resignation, the next opportunity to make an appointment to the board would not come until next year.

"I don't think we should wait that long" to appoint an African American, Wilson wrote.

In a statement, U of L Board of Trustees Chairman Larry Benz praised Wilson's move.

"We will miss his independent thought, inquiry, and voice on the board," Benz said. "The University of Louisville is grateful to have supporters and friends like Steve and his terrific wife Laura Lee. I am personally thankful that our paths have crossed and proud to call him friend."

State Sen. Gerald Neal of West Louisville, who chairs the Senate's minority caucus, applauded Conway and Wilson's moves.

While it's been a controversial issue since July, Conway was acting on his own timeframe -- and not others' -- when he intervened on Tuesday, Neal said in an interview.

Conway, the Democratic nominee for governor, had been criticized by Republican nominee Matt Bevin for remaining silent about Beshear's appointments to the U of L board.

Neal added that state laws designed to ensure minority representation on boards should not be used as an excuse to limit the number of minorities. For example, while at least two of the U of L board's 17 appointees must be minorities -- as Conway ruled -- nothing in state law would prevent more than two minorities from serving, Neal said.

"I think appointing authorities should be careful that these laws were not designed to establish a ceiling; they were designed to establish a floor," he said.

Beshear appointed his economic development secretary Larry Hayes and re-appointed Benz to another term starting in July. Both are white. He also appointed Diaz, who is Hispanic and of Cuban origin. 

The Rev. Kevin Cosby, an African American who is president of Simmons College, was not re-appointed to the board.

According to Conway's opinion, at least two of the 17 appointees to U of L's board must be racial minorities -- to reflect the 14 percent minority composition of Kentucky as a whole, as of the 2010 Census.

The Kentucky Center for Investigative Reporting reported in July that Beshear passed over three black candidates for the board. 

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