UofL officials grilled about timing in disclosing FBI investigat - WDRB 41 Louisville News

UofL officials grilled about timing in disclosing FBI investigation

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – While an investigation into two top University of Louisville officials began 17 months ago, the university only recently was allowed to disclose it, according to Larry Benz, chairman of the Board of Trustees.

After a board of trustees meeting Thursday, Benz was repeatedly pressed on why the investigation is just now becoming public and why Dr. David Dunn, executive vice president for health affairs, and chief information officer Dr. Priscilla Hancock were only yesterday put on leave.

Benz said authorities told them in recent days that the investigation has gotten to the point where university officials could be informed without the case being compromised, as the final interviews were finishing up.

"Our understanding is the investigation is more closer to its end than its beginning," Benz told reporters. "What I've heard is a period of months."

Courier-Journal reporter Andrew Wolfson asked Benz if the officials being put on leave and disclosure of an investigation -- including a letter to staff Wednesday from University President James Ramsey -- was actually because the newspaper reported on the scandal earlier this week. Citing anonymous sources, the newspaper reported the officials and a former employee, Dr. Russell Bessette, were under investigation for possible misuse of federal grant money.

"We got permission this week from federal authorities that we had proceeded to a point in the case where we able to disclose to our board of trustees," Benz responded.

Asked why the university would wait 17 months to put Dunn and Hancock on leave, Benz said he could not talk about specifics of the investigation.

"I think you can come to your own conclusions," Benz said, refusing to even acknowledge that Dunn and Hancock were involved in the investigation. He then repeated that the timing was "to oblige the U.S. Attorney’s office."

However, in his letter, Ramsey identified Dunn and Hancock and named the officials who would replace them while they are on leave.

Ramsey wrote that the investigation is being conducted by the University of Louisville Police Department, U.S. Attorney's Office and federal authorities. The university was made aware of possible misconduct in the summer of 2014 and the UofL Police began an investigation.

"Midway through that review, the university determined it would be prudent to seek assistance from the U.S. Attorney's Office," Ramsey said in the letter. Federal authorities joined in the investigation earlier this year.  

"This is an ongoing investigation, and I ask that we reserve judgment until the investigators have concluded their work," Ramsey wrote. He did not say what the investigation was about.

Asked about the investigation, Benz would only say that "the university is cooperating fully.  … This is a highly sensitive and a highly complex case that has gone on for a long time that requires an integrity in the investigation so that it does not get compromised."

And Benz bristled when asked by a reporter about people questioning the environment at U of L given so many highly publicized controversies this year, including the basketball sex scandal and the Halloween costume incident.

"I think any time these things come out in the media, there is inherent negativity bias around events," Benz said. "I can name you 30, 40 successes and positive things going on in the university but that doesn't sell newspapers and get the reports it needs to. …Why aren't you covering the positive things that happen as well?"

Benz also said the current investigation could "hardly …be called a scandal" as no one "has been accused of anything or indicted of anything."

Scandal, he told reporters, is a "Thursday night TV show."

And Benz said the board of trustees "is fully supportive of Dr. Ramsey." After the meeting, Ramsey told reporters he had no intention of resigning. He declined to answer further questions.

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