Former U of L Foundation CFO says he was "fall guy" in lawsuit challenging firing
The former chief financial officer of the University of Louisville Foundation has filed a lawsuit saying he did not deserve to be fired in July and was unfairly cast as the “fall guy” after the foundation became “embroiled in a political controversy” last year.
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- The former chief financial officer of the University of Louisville Foundation has filed a lawsuit saying he did not deserve to be fired in July and was unfairly cast as the “fall guy” after the foundation became “embroiled in a political controversy” last year.
R. Jason Tomlinson rose through the ranks at the foundation under former U of L President James Ramsey, who was pressured to resign in 2016. Tomlinson became the foundation’s permanent chief financial officer in December 2015.
The foundation board voted to fire Tomlinson on July 18 with no public discussion, and his termination letter gives no reason for the firing.
“(O)f course, no reason could have been given because none existed,” according to the lawsuit, filed Thursday in Jefferson Circuit Court.
In an emailed statement on Friday, foundation interim executive director Keith Sherman said the foundation “stands by” its firing of Tomlinson and will not discuss the matter further.
On the day Tomlinson was fired, foundation chairwoman Diane Medley told reporters the organization’s new board of directors wanted a “new start” and “to change the culture and the processes that have gone on here” in the wake of two critical reports of the foundation’s management and finances.
In December 2016, 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.”
Then on June 8, 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 from 2014 to 2016. 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.
But Tomlinson’s lawyer, Don Cox, called the forensic examiners “paid character assassins whose job was to blacken the image of certain employees at the University of Louisville so as to protect the hand-picked successors” to the university and foundation boards, according to the lawsuit.
The lawsuit reveals that Tomlinson was awarded unemployment benefits last month after a state hearing officer determined the foundation provided no evidence of misconduct by Tomlinson, nor “any other reason” to deny him benefits, which are awarded to employees who lose their job through no fault of their own.
“It is only speculation that (Tomlinson’s firing) resulted from the problems with the reports (on the foundation) or any failure on the part of (Tomlinson) to perform his duties,” the state unemployment appeal officer wrote in the decision.
Tomlinson was given a $260,000 annual salary in his December 2015 contract, which runs through 2021.