LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – University of Louisville trustees violated the state’s open meetings law by improperly allowing board members to participate by video teleconference, Kentucky Attorney General Andy Beshear’s office ruled Monday.

At issue is the U of L board’s practice of letting trustees attend meetings remotely without first notifying the public, and allowing those members to join in closed, executive sessions to discuss possible lawsuits or personnel actions.

Board members, including Papa John’s founder and chairman John Schnatter, routinely participate via teleconference.

In response to an appeal by The Courier-Journal, the attorney general determined that the U of L board violated the law by allowing those practices. The university is “reviewing the ruling to determine next steps,” spokesman John Karman said in an email.

U of L could challenge the decision by filing a lawsuit in Franklin Circuit Court.

The newspaper is asking that the board acknowledge the violations; stop letting trustees participate in closed sessions by videoconference; list all closed sessions over the past two years that included board members not physically present; released minutes or recordings of those sessions; and list any actions that were taken after those sessions.

The attorney general’s decision places new scrutiny on a list of high-profile actions by the U of L board over the past year, including firing former athletic director Tom Jurich and paying an additional $2.4 million annually to the Louisville Arena Authority for the KFC Yum! Center.

“It raises questions about any decision they might have made,” said Jon Fleischaker, a First Amendment attorney who is representing the newspaper. “Anything done in violation of the act is voidable.”

Fleischaker said Kentucky law is clear that video teleconferencing can’t happen in a closed session, “and they did it. Pretty obvious violation of the law. I don’t think it’s a technical violation.” 

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