Ramsey, University of Louisville Board of Trustees appear at odds over lawsuit
U of L President James Ramsey's stance on a lawsuit challenging the racial composition of the Board of Trustees appears to differ from last year when the university sought to dismiss the suit.
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- In November, the University of Louisville Board of Trustees filed a motion in Franklin Circuit Court to dismiss a lawsuit by the Kentucky Justice Resource Center contending the board has too few minority members in violation of state law.
The board’s opposition to the lawsuit had been discussed in a closed session of the trustees, according to two sources who were present.
And, speaking in his official capacity shortly after the suit was filed, Board of Trustees Chairman Larry Benz told WAVE-3 News that despite the Justice Resource Center’s claim, the board was “duly constituted” with sufficient minority representation to comply with the law..
Now, however, U of L President James Ramsey says the board does indeed lack a sufficient number of minority members and has been “out of balance for far too long.”
Ramsey’s statement on the lawsuit came Thursday in response to Gov. Matt Bevin’s announcement that he would reverse the position of his predecessor Steve Beshear and embrace the Justice Resource Center’s claim that the U of L board does not comply with state law.
The lawsuit names the governor and the Board of Trustees as defendants, but not the university itself.
It's unclear if Ramsey's full embrace of Bevin's position changes the Board of Trustees' response to the lawsuit.
U of L spokesman John Karman was not able to comment on Monday. Benz, the trustees' chairman, declined to comment.
In an email Monday, Ramsey's Chief of Staff Kathleen Smith seemed to confirm that Ramsey's position differs from the earlier position of the trustees.
"The University’s move to dismiss was based upon errors in fact in the lawsuit," Smith said. "The University is not a party in the lawsuit and Larry (Benz) was speaking for the 17 board members named in the lawsuit."
Bevin’s move raises the possibility that as many as three trustees could be replaced at a time when Ramsey is dealing with at least a few skeptics on the board. On Thursday, trustees Craig Greenberg and Stephen Campbell publicly withdrew their support for Ramsey.
An email chain obtained by WDRB News shows that Ramsey’s statement agreeing with Bevin’s stance on the lawsuit was written Thursday by public relations strategist Scott Jennings, whose firm RunSwitch PR is under contract with the University of Louisville Foundation.
In signing off on the statement, Smith called the situation “a plus for UofL.”
“This is a very political (SIC) and a plus for UofL,” Smith wrote.
The emails were first reported Monday by Insider Louisville.
Smith clarified her comment in a message to WDRB News on Monday.
"The makeup of UofL’s board requires it reflect diversity in our community and state," Smith said. "The phrase ‘a very political’ referred only to the fact the state’s top ‘political’ leader – the Governor – is now involved, making the lawsuit, by definition, a ‘political’ development; and it is “a plus for UofL” to get the diversity issue resolved."
Bevin’s administration has asked Judge Thomas Wingate to invalidate the three appointments Beshear made to the board in June 2015 – Benz, former Kindred Healthcare CEO Paul Diaz and former Kentucky economic development secretary Larry Hayes.
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