University of Louisville trustees to consider removing Ramsey from foundation
Some University of Louisville trustees want to force U of L President James Ramsey to give up his dual role leading both the university and its $1 billion nonprofit foundation.
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- Some University of Louisville trustees want to force U of L President James Ramsey to give up his dual role leading both the university and its $1 billion nonprofit foundation.
A motion sent to all 20 members of the Board of Trustees on Tuesday would forbid the president of the university from serving as president of the University of Louisville Foundation, effective June 30.
Ramsey has been president of both organizations – and received compensation from both – since he arrived at U of L in 2002.
Ramsey said Wednesday that splitting the two jobs is not in the “best interests” of the university. It would add administrative costs and put the university “in competition” with the foundation, he said.
Ramsey said the trustees should wait on the forthcoming examination of the foundation by state Auditor Mike Harmon.
Harmon, newly elected to the office, agreed to continue with the examination on Tuesday at the encouragement of U of L trustee and foundation board chairman Robert Hughes, a Ramsey ally.
“My position is that we ought to let the state auditor do his work before making rash decisions that could negatively impact this university forever,” Ramsey said in a written statement.
The motion to split the foundation and university presidency was sent to the board’s personnel committee, and copied to the full board, on Tuesday at the request of trustee Emily Bingham, who chairs the personnel committee, for “information purposes only.”
Rather than being taken up at tomorrow’s trustees meetings, the motion has been “deferred” to a later date at the recommendation of trustees Chairman Larry Benz, according to the email from Jake Beamer, U of L’s liaison to the board.
Bingham did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Benz declined to comment.
The motion, obtained by WDRB News, does not indicate which trustees are behind it. (VIEW THE MOTION HERE).
The motion says the “size, complexity and challenges” of both the university and foundation have “increased dramatically in recent years.”
“In short, the Board of Trustees believes that the President of the University and the President of the Foundation is each a full time job and should be held by two different individuals,” the motion says.
Ramsey is not only the chief executive of the foundation, a tax-exempt charitable organization, but also a voting member of its board of directors, a member of the board’s executive committee and chairman of its nominating committee, which vets candidates for most of the board’s open seats.
It’s an unusually powerful role compared to similar universities, WDRB found in a comparison last August.
Among the more-than two dozen U of L peer institutions, only one other school – the University of Alabama at Birmingham – in which the university president is paid by the affiliated foundation, is the chief officer of the foundation and has a direct role in choosing new members of the foundation’s board.
While it fluctuates from year to year, Ramsey regularly earns more than $1 million annually from the foundation. In 2012, he got $2.7 million.
A university compensation consultant reported last year that Ramsey gets about $600,000 a year from the foundation just in “tax gross-ups,” which are special payments meant to offset his income taxes. He was to get $873,422 in tax gross-ups in the fiscal year 2014, the consultant reported – more than many university presidents get in salary.
In fact, one complication with separating Ramsey from his foundation role is that he has an employment contract and deferred compensation agreements with the foundation.
The motion says the board “acknowledges” there may be “certain financial ramifications” with separating the jobs, but “any such financial obligations will be outweighed by the short- and long-term benefits that will be realized by this motion.”
Ramsey, in his statement, said the financial implications are another reason he opposes separating the jobs. (VIEW RAMSEY'S COMPLETE STATEMENT HERE).
“For that reason alone our energies and resources should be spent on moving the University in a direction that would not have negative ‘financial ramifications,’” Ramsey said.
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