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Black Leaders Want Attorney General To Weigh-In On University Board Appointments

Students on the University of Louisville's main campus.
Eleanor Hasken
Students on the University of Louisville's main campus.

Black community leaders want Attorney General Jack Conway to examine whether Gov. Steve Beshear skirted state law in not selecting a single African-American for the University of Louisville's Board of Trustees.

Members of two groups, the Justice Resource Center and the West Louisville Ministers Coalition, sent a letter to Conway on Tuesday asking for his involvement, according to WFPL's Ashley Lopez.

The Kentucky Center for Investigative Reporting earlier this month broke the story of Beshear passing over black candidates for the board.  The board, which has been in the spotlight recently with some members' questioning financial management at the school and calling for more transparency, is currently without an African-American member for the first time in 45 years.

In June, Beshear received a list of the nine people recommended for the U of L board by the state’s Postsecondary Education Nominating Committee. From that list, Beshear selected Paul Diaz, the executive vice chairman of Louisville-based Kindred Healthcare; Larry Hayes, the state’s secretary of economic development; and an incumbent, Laurence Benz. Diaz is Cuban-American, Hayes and Benz are white.

Beshear passed over three African-American nominees. Kevin Cosby, a Louisville minister, had been appointed to the the U of L board by Beshear in 2009, and his term expired June 30. Ulysses “Junior” Bridgeman, a well-known former U of L basketball player and former trustee, and Louisville attorney Derwin Webb, a U of L graduate and a former assistant athletic director, also were not selected.

Now, Rev. Clay Calloway of the Ministers Coalition and Pastor Milton Seymour with the Justice Resource Center question whether Beshear's appointment of a Latino satisfies state law.

According to Kentucky statute 164.821(5):
The Governor shall make his at-large appointments so as to divide the citizen representation upon the board to reflect proportional representation of the two (2) leading political parties in the Commonwealth based on the state’s voter registration and shall reflect no less than proportional representation of the minority racial composition of the Commonwealth.
Calloway said Beshear is in the wrong, in part because Latinos are an ethnic minority—not a racial minority, according to WFPL.

“Well, Latino does not satisfy the intent of racial minority,” Calloway said. “That’s one thing. But let’s say he does represent a racial minority—you are still short by two.”

In a released statement, Conway’s office said, “this morning our office received a formal written opinion request on this issue. We will follow our standard procedure and render an opinion after a thoughtful and diligent review involving stakeholders.”

You can read the letter to Conway here. For more on this story go to WFPL.org.

Disclosure: In October 2014, the University of Louisville, which for years has donated to Louisville Public Media, earmarked $10,000 to KyCIR as part of a larger LPM donation. Trustee Stephen Campbell has donated to KyCIR. 

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