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Bevin Appeals Order That Blocked U of L Board Overhaul

U of L

Gov. Matt Bevin has asked the Kentucky Court of Appeals to overturn an order that blocked his overhaul of the University of Louisville Board of Trustees.

Bevin dissolved the 17-member board by executive order in June, alleging dysfunction among the group. He later reconstituted it as a 10-member board.

Earlier this month, Franklin Circuit Court Judge Philip Shephard temporarily blocked the move in the midst of a challenge brought on by Attorney General Andy Beshear.

In a motion filed with the Kentucky Court of Appeals, Bevin’s attorneys said that the court “abused its discretion” in blocking the overhaul.

“At issue here is whether the Governor should be able to perform what the Kentucky Supreme Court has deemed a purely executive function without being second-guessed by the Franklin Circuit Court,” the motion states.

The motion continues: "The obvious answer is “yes,” but the Franklin Circuit Court nevertheless believes that it should be able to exercise a veto power over the Governor’s executive decisions."

Bevin argues that while the legislature isn’t in session, he has power to reorganize state entities like the U of L Board.

In the motion, the governor’s office argues that publicized incidents of embezzlement by faculty and staff, an alleged prostitution scandal involving the men’s basketball team, trustee members bickering with each other and the school’s president precipitated Bevin’s reorganization of the governing body.

The governor also argues that the board was illegally constituted because it had too few racial minorities and Republicans on the board. State law requires university boards to represent the political and racial makeup of the state.

Attorney General Andy Beshear sued Bevin over the move, arguing that state law protected trustees from being fired without proper cause. Trustees serve four-year terms; there were two vacancies on the board before Bevin’s executive order.

Judge Shepherd issued a temporary block of Bevin’s overhaul, citing concerns that the university’s accreditation with the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools might suffer. The attorney general’s office argued that the organization could pull U of L’s accreditation for having “undue political influence” on the management of the school.

In his order earlier this month, Shepherd said the legal issues in the case “go to the heart of the democratic process” and that the court had to intervene to “preserve the proper checks and balances governing executive action and legislative delegations of power.”

Bevin’s attorneys argue that the temporary block shouldn’t have been granted because Beshear didn’t adequately show that the lawsuit would succeed on its merits or that that irreparable injury would take place without the court stepping in.

Ryland Barton is the Managing Editor for Collaboratives. Email Ryland at rbarton@lpm.org.