James Ramsey resigns from University of Louisville Foundation - WDRB 41 Louisville News

James Ramsey resigns from University of Louisville Foundation

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – James Ramsey resigned effective Friday as president of the University of Louisville Foundation, capping a day in which the school’s nonprofit arm also added four new members.

Those moves appeared to calm tensions between the university’s foundation and board of trustees over a potential lawsuit between the two groups, with leaders of both boards downplaying the prospect of legal action.

Ramsey, who stepped down as U of L’s president in July, won’t get additional payments as part of a voluntary exit, said Robert Hughes, a foundation board member who was its chairman until Friday.

“We’ve accepted it with the appreciation for the work that he’s done, but there are no terms,” Hughes said. He added: “Today effectively ends Dr. Ramsey’s tenure at the University of Louisville.”

The foundation manages U of L's $680 million endowment and serves as custodian of other donated money. Ramsey had been president of the foundation, in addition to his duties as school president -- a dual role critics argued was a conflict of interest.

For now, longtime Ramsey aide Kathleen Smith will continue to work for the foundation as its assistant secretary, but has retired from the university. She said she hopes to oversee a number of projects already underway.

Also on Friday, the foundation’s directors named five members to the 15-person board. Newly appointed are Alice Houston, Paul Carrico, Diane Medley and Ronnie Abrams; Dr. William Selvidge was re-elected.

Houston is co-owner of the Louisville-based logistics firm Houston-Johnson Inc.,and serves on the board of the Louisville Arena Authority, which oversees the KFC Yum! Center; Medley is a partner in the Mountjoy Chilton Medley accounting firm.

The four new members were recommended after the foundation’s nominating committee met in a closed session for more than two hours Friday morning.

The foundation took no action toward developing a request for proposals for a sweeping audit of its activities in recent years.

“I think it’s only fair that we defer that to the new board,” Hughes said.

Brucie Moore, a Union County attorney whom the foundation board named as its new chair, told reporters that she supports a “forensic accounting” of the foundation that would be overseen jointly with the board of trustees.

“I think we have to keep these two entities separate, but at the same time the board of trustees has to be very much involved in every aspect,” she said.

The foundation’s actions came a week after U of L trustees voted to give their chairman the authority to sue the foundation for failing to provide records that detail spending under Ramsey’s tenure.

Asked Friday if the foundation has averted that lawsuit, Moore said: “I certainly would hope so.” A lawsuit is not “necessary or productive,” she said.

Trustees chair Larry Benz, who sits on the foundation’s board, said he believes the risk of a lawsuit no longer exists. He had previously called for the foundation board to fire Ramsey with no additional compensation.

“We outlined several pathways to restore the confidence in the public to the foundation,” Benz said. “And several of those steps were taken today,” including Ramsey’s resignation and the four new foundation board members.

Following a board of trustees meeting last week, Benz called the foundation "an eyesore for the community." He claimed it has been tarnished by a "culture of secrecy and lack of transparency."

Two donors to the foundation -- including the James Graham Brown Foundation -- have publicly expressed concerns in recent weeks about the organization's spending. The Brown Foundation has said it will withhold grants to the U of L foundation until a forensic accountant is hired.

Benz said last week that the records trustees are seeking include more information about a $38 million loan to the foundation from the university. WDRB News reported last year that neither board knew the loan had been unilaterally approved by Ramsey.

In his resignation letter, Ramsey said Benz's allegation of "unauthorized transfers of money" between the foundation and the university is false.

"Documents demonstrate its falsity," Ramsey wrote. "The continued repetition of this false statement has caused incalculable damage to the University. In my opinion, this is additional proof that the Foundation must retain some degree of autonomy from the University's Board of Trustees, which will inevitably contain one or more political appointees who have no true affiliation with the University, or even with the Commonwealth."

Also Friday, the foundation board agreed to hire up to four employees – two to start as soon as possible – to handle what Hughes said is a “flood” of open records requests.

Hughes said he didn’t want to seek an additional term as the foundation’s chair. Speaking to reporters, he described Friday’s actions as “turning the page.”

“Things are different today than they were yesterday,” he said. “I think that’s an important message to send.”

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