University of Kentucky President Lee T. Todd Jr. and his wife, Patsy, are driving a new university-owned Jeep Grand Cherokee in addition to a $33,000 Toyota Avalon that UK provides for its first family.
The UK Alumni Association, a non-profit group separate from the university, initially bought the black 2009 Grand Cherokee last fall from a UK trustee's car dealership.
The alumni group made the purchase at the request of UK administrators, then it donated the vehicle to the university in March, according to the Jeep's title, which the Herald-Leader obtained after filing a request under the state's Open Records Act.
Todd said in an interview last week that other UK employees, at times, have used the Grand Cherokee, but that he normally uses it.
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"I probably drive it as much as anybody does," he said.
University documents obtained by the Herald-Leader don't include the original purchase price.
The vehicle generally costs between $30,000 and $44,000, depending on how many special features are included, according to Jeep.
Frank Shoop, a member of the UK board of trustees, confirmed that the alumni association bought the Grand Cherokee from the Chrysler Jeep dealership he owns in Georgetown.
Shoop did not recall how much the alumni association paid for the vehicle.
He said the association most likely got a good price because of its non-profit status and connection to a public university.
"Any university, any school, any charity and any public institution, we try to give a special deal," he said.
Todd said a second UK vehicle was necessary because he and his wife have chosen to live most of the time in the Hartland neighborhood rather than the president's mansion, Maxwell Place, on campus and because the duties of the presidency require a lot of driving.
"There's just a lot going on at times with the amount of travel within the state that you have to do," he said. "It's a four-wheel drive. ... I've had one in the past. That helps out, too."
Todd declined to comment further.
This is not the first time a UK president has had two vehicles at his disposal. Todd's predecessor, Charles Wethington, turned in two cars that were assigned to the president's office when he left in 2001.
University spokesman Jimmy Stanton said last week that "the president and the first lady both use the Jeep for both official and personal use, much like the use of the Toyota that is also assigned to the president's office."
"In addition, other UK staff that support the president use both vehicles for official business of the university," Stanton's statement said.
The Todds have put 39,030 miles on the UK-blue 2006 Toyota Avalon that the university bought in March 2006 for $33,660.
No vehicle sign-out sheets are kept for the Grand Cherokee to show who else uses it, according to UK's response to the newspaper's Open Records request.
The disclosure of a second UK-owned car at the Todds' disposal comes as the state's flagship university faces a worsening budget because of cuts in state funding. Faculty and staff face a second consecutive year without salary increases in the proposed budget that is expected to be approved Tuesday by the UK board of trustees.
Stanton emphasized that the Grand Cherokee doesn't affect UK's bottom line because it was a donation.
UK's executive vice president for finance and administration, Frank Butler, first asked the alumni association to buy a four-wheel vehicle for the president's office last fall, Stanton's statement said.
Stan Key, executive director of the UK Alumni Association, said the group paid for the Jeep out of a portion of the organization's funds that are designated for "university support."
"It's the university's place to use those funds how they want to," Key said. "If a new vehicle is needed for use in the main building and those funds are available, then we make the purchase and then make the gift to the university."
The UK Alumni Association is funded largely through dues and donations of alumni, although Key said it does receive $600,000 from UK to cover salaries and benefits of 11 employees, including Key.
UK owns a fleet of more than 1,200 vehicles, according to its records. Most are assigned to agriculture programs, UK's farms and the campus maintenance pool.
The university has provided 33 employees with university-owned vehicles, according to a list of taxable fringe benefits for some university employees. In addition to the cars for the Todds' use, UK recently leased a 2009 Lexus ES 350 for Michael Karpf, executive vice president for health affairs.
The other 31 UK employees provided with vehicles are coaches or Athletics Department officials.
Hollie Swanson, associate professor of pharmacology and the incoming vice chairman of the University Senate, said she's more concerned about the money spent on UK athletics than the university providing a second vehicle for the Todds' use.
She said Todd "well represents the university" and the fact that the Jeep wasn't bought with UK funds makes it easier to accept.
"In the larger scheme of things, what we are concerned about is making sure we can actually teach our students, that our students learn, that our faculty and staff are appreciative and we can keep on our mission," Swanson said.