University of Louisville Foundation fires CFO Jason Tomlinson - WDRB 41 Louisville News

University of Louisville Foundation fires CFO Jason Tomlinson

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Jason Tomlinson, former chief financial officer of the University of Louisville Foundation, at a 2016 board meeting Jason Tomlinson, former chief financial officer of the University of Louisville Foundation, at a 2016 board meeting

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) --  The University of Louisville Foundation fired its chief financial officer, Jason Tomlinson, on Tuesday as the organization seeks a “new start” following a scathing forensic investigation that found millions of dollars in overspending.

Tomlinson’s termination came without discussion after the board met behind closed doors for about an hour and a half.

Don Cox’s, Tomlinson’s attorney, said he was “shocked” to learn of the move, which came as Tomlinson and the foundation were negotiating a buyout. Tomlinson had been on paid leave for about a month.

Foundation Chairwoman Diane Medley declined to comment on Tomlinson’s firing or even to say whether it was “for cause” – meaning for deficient performance.

But Medley said it’s significant that the foundation has cut ties with the three people who primarily ran the organization until last year, former U of L President James Ramsey, his former chief of staff Kathleen Smith and Tomlinson.

“It does give us a new start… Those top three individuals are no longer employees of the foundation, and as we have said before we are looking to change the culture and change the processes that have gone on here,” Medley told reporters following the meeting.

Tomlinson became the foundation’s permanent CFO in December 2015 with an employment contract through 2021. He effectively stepped into the role in 2013 when  U of L’s former vice president for finance retired.

Cox said the foundation was in the middle of crafting an exit-deal for Tomlinson.

“I am shocked that the board acted so precipitously when we had been in the middle of negotiations with them -- which they started,” he said. “We were looking for another job and they offered money -- a significant amount of money -- and the next thing I know, they fired him.”

Asked about Tomlinson’s employment contract, Cox said he would have “more to say” about it on Wednesday.

Tomlinson’s exit follows two independent reports that panned the foundation’s financial management during the tail end of Ramsey’s 14-year tenure.

The foundation, a legally separate charitable organization, handles donations to the university and manages U of L’s roughly $800 million endowment.

In December, Kentucky Auditor Mike Harmon’s office issued a “management review” that noted a lack of basic financial records at the foundation and questioned whether Tomlinson had “sufficient information to properly manage the financial operations of an organization of this size.”

In June, a forensic investigation commissioned by the university found that the foundation raided U of L’s endowment to fund at least $42 million in unbudgeted or excessive expenses. The forensic report also said the foundation overstated the real value of the endowment by up to $72 million through internal loans that aren’t likely to be repaid.

The forensic investigation faults unnamed foundation officers for not properly overseeing the organization’s assets and notes that no action was taken after Tomlinson received a warning about the excessive spending from a subordinate in 2013. 

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