Judge rules Bevin erred in abolishing University of Louisville board of trustees
A Frankfort judge has ruled that Gov. Matt Bevin overstepped his authority by abolishing the University of Louisville board of trustees and appointing a new board over the summer. The sharply worded opinion by Franklin Circuit Court Judge Phillip Shepherd faults Bevin for apparently negotiating former U of L President James Ramsey's resignation in exchange for blowing up the board.
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- A Frankfort judge has ruled that Gov. Matt Bevin overstepped his authority by abolishing the University of Louisville board of trustees and appointing a new board over the summer.
The sharply worded opinion by Franklin Circuit Court Judge Phillip Shepherd faults Bevin for apparently negotiating former U of L President James Ramsey's resignation in exchange for blowing up the board.
The opinion says Bevin "served as judge, jury, and executioner" of the board and side-stepped state law that says trustees can be removed only "for cause" and with a hearing.
The ruling means the current board made up of appointees of former Gov. Steve Beshear will remain in power unless Bevin appeals and is successful at the Kentucky Court of Appeals or the state Supreme Court.
Bevin spokeswoman Amanda Stamper said in an email that the governor's lawyer is "taking the time to properly review the ruling." She did not say whether the governor would appeal.
Kentucky Attorney General Andy Beshear, who brought the legal challenge to Bevin's U of L's actions, called on the governor to either "accept" the ruling and fill the five vacant seats on the 20-member board or ask the Supreme Court to take up the case immediately.
"What our students and faculty need now is finality," Beshear said in a statement.
Bevin abolished the board on June 17 and later replaced it with a 10-member board of his appointees. The Bevin-appointed board held three meetings in July, including a marathon session in which it negotiated Ramsey's immediate resignation for a $690,000 payout.
Shepherd then granted a temporary injunction, which restored the board Bevin had abolished to power.
The pre-existing board has no Republicans and only one racial minority, putting it at odds with state law requiring political and racial balance.
But the board has conducted a flurry of business in the last two months despite Bevin's insistence that it should not meet and refusal to fill its vacancies.
Brucie Moore, a trustee and chairwoman of U of L's nonprofit foundation, said in a statement Wednesday that Bevin should at least appoint two racial minorities to the board so it will have the legal authority to hire Ramsey's successor.
"Finding a new leader for U of L is too important to the campus community, city, and commonwealth to be delayed," said Moore, the county attorney in Union County. "Governor Bevin can make these appointments and still maintain his arguments should he decide to appeal this ruling."
Stamper would not say whether Bevin intends to make appointments to the existing board.
She repeated an argument the governor's office made in the case -- that the attorney general's office under Beshear predecessor Jack Conway explicitly acknowledged the governor's ability to abolish and recreate the board in a 2015 opinion.
Shepherd's ruling is below: