Pinto: University of Louisville Foundation should fire Ramsey wi - WDRB 41 Louisville News

Pinto: University of Louisville Foundation should fire Ramsey with no additional payments

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University of Louisville interim President Neville Pinto University of Louisville interim President Neville Pinto
U of L Foundation President James Ramsey at foundation meeting, March 8, 2016 U of L Foundation President James Ramsey at foundation meeting, March 8, 2016

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) --  University of Louisville interim President Neville Pinto expressed “deep concern” just one hour before a board committee of the U of L Foundation had been scheduled to meet Monday and award a rumored payout to Foundation President James Ramsey.

Pinto said he opposes any payment to Ramsey and called on the foundation board to terminate him immediately, according to an email Pinto sent to the foundation board, a copy of which was obtained by WDRB News.

“While I respect the good work that Dr. Ramsey accomplished during his tenure as President, he is not entitled to a settlement payment from the Foundation,” Pinto wrote. “To provide him with a settlement payment is not in keeping with the terms of his contract or our obligation to use the assets of the Foundation for the exclusive benefit of the University’s mission.”

The executive committee of the foundation's Board of Directors had called a special meeting at 5 p.m. Monday -- the Labor Day holiday -- but it was canceled.

Foundation Chairman Robert Hughes said he called the meeting off after foundation board member Larry Benz, who is also chairman of the U of L Board of Trustees, said in a separate letter Monday that any payments to Ramsey would be a breach of the foundation's fiduciary duty to the university. Hughes said the foundation's attorney interpreted that as a clear legal threat. (See Benz's letter below).

Pinto, who is now a member of the foundation board by virtue of his position, wrote that the “hastily called” meeting on a holiday weekend “feeds the broadly held perception of a lack of transparency, and runs counter to the work we are doing to restore public confidence in the Foundation as well as the University of Louisville."

Pinto also revealed that a second major donor -- the C. E. & S. Foundation -- has said it will withhold contributions until the foundation has a special audit. The C. E. & S. Foundation's move comes after the James Graham Brown Foundation said on Friday that it would withhold donations until a "forensic" audit of the foundation is performed. 

“The escalating gravity of the matter, with its potential for devastating impact on the university’s mission, dictates that the full board of the Foundation deliberate on the appropriate actions that must be taken to address these concerns, not just the Executive Committee,” Pinto wrote.

By resigning at U of L president late last month, Ramsey gave up any right to serve out his employment agreement through 2020 with the foundation. His contract says his employment with foundation ends if he is no longer president of U of L upon notice from the foundation.

But Hughes said Monday that the foundation board is not obligated to terminate Ramsey.

"We can decide what to do and that is our prerogative to do so," Hughes told WDRB. 

He declined to confirm that Ramsey was going to be given a payout on Monday, calling it a "personnel matter" that he could not discuss.

But asked whether he thinks Ramsey should get a payout, Hughes said: "My personal views are, we need to be fair and not ill-tempered and mean-spirited; I think the University of Louisville is better for that."

He added that executives such as Ramsey typically work out a mutually agreed releases of legal claims with their employers upon exiting a position -- even though in this case, Ramsey has no legal recourse to avoid being fired.

"Anytime you leave you typically get a release, and that’s just standard operating procedure," Hughes said.

Here is Pinto's full email:


Dear Bob,
I am writing to express deep concern about today’s hastily called meeting of the University of Louisville Foundation Executive Committee.  I learned of this meeting late yesterday, and of the agenda this morning. I have not been provided any information on the personnel matters to be discussed, and at the time of writing have not received a copy of the RFP mentioned in the agenda. This hastily called meeting on a holiday weekend feeds the broadly held perception of a lack of transparency, and runs counter to the work we are doing to restore public confidence in the Foundation as well as the University of Louisville.
 I was very troubled by the letter from the James R. Brown Foundation, one of our most generous and loyal supporters.  I fully endorse their recommendation for an independent and thorough forensic audit of the UofL Foundation by a national firm. Just this afternoon we received a similar letter from another very important donor group, the C. E. and S. Foundation. This letter states the intention to withhold donations to UofL, the UofL Foundation and other University entities until the forensic audit is complete.
The escalating gravity of the matter, with its potential for devastating impact on the university’s mission, dictates that the full board of the Foundation deliberate on the appropriate actions that must be taken to address these concerns, not just the Executive Committee.  It is also very important to consult with the state auditor’s office as we move forward with this important work.  With my obligation to act in the best interests of the University of Louisville, I intend to ask Foundation board members to join me in seeking a third-party forensic audit to restore the public’s faith in the Foundation.
While no particulars have been provided on the personnel matters to be discussed, I have read in news reports of a possible discussion on Dr. Jim Ramsey’s employment contract with the Foundation.   Dr. Ramsey’s Employment Agreement with the Foundation is clear.  His employment by the Foundation, his salary and bonuses, and any and all other rights and benefits under his Foundation contract are to terminate upon his resignation as President of the University.  Dr. Ramsey resigned as President of the University on July 28, 2016.  It is the Foundation’s responsibility to provide Dr. Ramsey with formal notice that his Employment Agreement with the Foundation has ended, effective immediately.
As the Acting President of the University, I am required to ensure the responsible use of resources entrusted to us, which include the resources of the University of Louisville Foundation.   While I respect the good work that Dr. Ramsey accomplished during his tenure as President, he is not entitled to a settlement payment from the Foundation.  To provide him with a settlement payment is not in keeping with the terms of his contract or our obligation to use the assets of the Foundation for the exclusive benefit of the University’s mission.
With the ongoing cuts in state funding, the UofL Foundation has never been more vital to the University of Louisville.  Our donors, alumni, students, faculty and staff – along with the taxpayers of Kentucky – have a right to know how every dollar of Foundation funds is being spent. I look forward to working with you and other members of the Foundation Board to ensure that we meet these expectations.
Sincerely,
Neville

Here is the letter from Benz:

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