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Weeks After Injunction, Judge Concerned With U of L Governance

U of L

The judge presiding over a challenge to Gov. Matt Bevin’s overhaul of the University of Louisville board of trustees expressed frustration on Tuesday that the opposing parties hadn’t come to an agreement on which version of the U of L board should be in charge of the school.

Attorney General Andy Beshear sued Bevin for abolishing the 17-member U of L board and replacing it with a 10-member board made up of his own appointments.

Franklin Circuit Court Judge Philip Shepherd temporarily blocked the move late last month, effectively restoring the old version of the board, which Bevin scrapped in June.

On Tuesday, Shepherd said he had been optimistic that questions about the school’s governance would settle after the temporary injunction, but now he’s “concerned.”

“I was still hopeful that there would be some agreement or some consensus that would develop without any issues with regard to the governance of the university while the case is pending,” Shepherd said. “It is now, I think, abundantly apparent to the court that that is not going to happen.”

As a result, Shepherd said the court will expedite proceedings of the case.

Trustees on the "old" board are planning to call a meeting for Thursday. The governor’s office maintains that the board is “illegally constituted” because it doesn’t meet standards requiring proportional representation of racial minorities and political party affiliation.

Shepherd temporarily blocked Bevin’s reorganization of the U of L board, citing concerns that the school might lose its accreditation with the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools due to "undue political influence."

Neither version of the board has met since the injunction, though Bevin's "new" board met in the weeks beforehand.

In an interview on WHAS 840 News Radio last week, when asked if the board should continue meeting despite the injunction, Bevin said “they’ve got work to do, absolutely.”

“Their job is to govern, and that is exactly what I think they should do," Bevin said in the interview.

On Tuesday, Bevin’s general counsel Steve Pitt walked back the governor’s comments.

“The governor has never encouraged defiance of the court’s order, the governor recognizes that the court has ruled and has stated, at least temporarily, what the law is,” Pitt said.

But Pitt maintained that the “old” version of the board should not meet because it is not appropriately “racially constituted or politically constituted.”

“It’s our position it is not a legitimate board at this point in time and it would be our position that they should not meet,” Pitt said.

Shepherd is also presiding over Attorney General Beshear’s challenge of Bevin’ abolishment and reorganization of the Kentucky Retirement Systems board of trustees as well as his removal of the board’s chair, Tommy Elliott.

Late Monday, Shepherd temporarily blocked Bevin’s removal of Elliott, but allowed the KRS board reorganization to stand while the case is still pending.

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