University of Louisville trustees chairman hires independent law - WDRB 41 Louisville News

University of Louisville trustees chairman hires independent lawyer to represent board

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Larry Benz, chairman of the U of L Board of Trustees Larry Benz, chairman of the U of L Board of Trustees
University of Louisville General Counsel and Vice President of Strategy Leslie Strohm (U of L photo) University of Louisville General Counsel and Vice President of Strategy Leslie Strohm (U of L photo)

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – The chairman of the University of Louisville Board of Trustees has hired an outside lawyer to represent the board, though he denies the move is a step toward forcing President James Ramsey from his job.

At issue is whether the university’s chief lawyer Leslie Strohm – who is also a top administrator with the title “vice president of strategy” – has a conflict of interest between advising the Board of Trustees on its relationship with Ramsey and the administration while also serving as a member of Ramsey’s inner circle.

Board Chairman Larry Benz -- one of a number of trustees who have said they lack confidence in Ramsey’s leadership -- told his colleagues in a recent email that he has hired Sam Hinkle of Stoll Keenon Ogden to advise the board.

Strohm “works closely with the UL administration on a daily basis” by virtue of her position, according to the email from Benz, obtained by WDRB News.

“State bar rules regarding conflicts of interest make it difficult for her both to advise the President and administration and to advise the board on the rights and duties of the board in its relationship with the President and administration,” Benz wrote.

Ramsey, who is under contract to lead U of L until 2020, is at odds with roughly half the board. It’s assumed the trustees will attempt to take a vote of no-confidence in his leadership at its next meeting.

Benz denied to WDRB News that the move is a step toward forcing Ramsey out.

“I just want someone who can be a resource for the trustees relating to Kentucky Revised Statutes, particularly open meetings, and all legal matters pertaining to the board,” he said.

Benz added that, having served on “numerous private and public boards,” it's simply "good practice" for boards to have independent attorneys.

But trustee Bob Hughes, Ramsey’s most outspoken advocate on the board, said the move is “further evidence of an irreparably fractured board.”

Hughes questioned the use of university funds to hire Stoll Keenon Ogden while the university also pays Strohm, whose base salary is $350,000.

“I don’t understand the purpose of wasting additional monies of the university on multiple lawyers when we already have one,” he said.

University spokesman John Karman had no immediate comment on Monday.

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