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What To Expect In Friday's U of L Foundation Meeting

University of Louisville

The likelihood of a lawsuit pitting the University of Louisville against the University of Louisville Foundation may become clearer on Friday, when the Foundation's board meets.

The meeting’s agenda includes the nomination of up to six new members and the solicitation of firms to audit the nonprofit foundation, the entity that manages the school’s near $700 million endowment. Both of those actions are in opposition to a list of demands U of L trustees chairman Larry Benz laid out last Friday.

“I have strong concerns that the process and the agenda does not reflect the demands of the stakeholders of the university, which include the faculty, staff, students and president, as well as our key donor base,” Benz said.

The Foundation is a nonprofit corporation that holds, invests and designates funds of the university, and has been deemed by the courts to be a public agency and part of U of L. But the Foundation and university have separate governing boards. At issue is which group will take the lead in determining the future of the Foundation.

In a letter this week, Benz gave Foundation board chair Bob Hughes a list of actions that Benz claimed would restore confidence in the Foundation.

Benz’s most controversial demand is that the Foundation fire its president, James Ramsey, who stepped down as the university’s president via a $690,000 buyout in July but remains head of the Foundation. Benz also demanded that chief of staff Kathleen Smith be “relieved of any and all duties at the Foundation.”

There is no agenda item addressing that, although one of two executive sessions planned for Friday will focus on pending litigation.

Benz also demanded that the university be allowed to select the firm to conduct an audit, but Foundation board members are set to discuss issuing that request for proposals.

The Foundation has not turned over financial documents Benz requested in June, he said, and the U of L board voted last week to authorize Benz to file suit against the Foundation to seek the records.

WFPL’s Kentucky Center for Investigative Reporting filed suit Thursday against the Foundation, alleging the nonprofit is illegally withholding public records.

The Foundation will need to address the expired terms of four members: Frank Minnifield, William Selvidge, Jonathan Blue and Frank Weisberg, according to its website.

Benz and Hughes had also been battling over picks to the five-person nomination committee. Hughes named two of the people Benz requested, but Hughes still had three picks of his own.

Hughes defended the selections in a letter to Benz, saying the appointments reflect his “considered judgment.”

Kate Howard is the managing editor of the Kentucky Center for Investigative Reporting.