Bevin blasts proposed meeting of old U of L board

Gov. Matt Bevin
Gov. Matt Bevin File photo

Gov. Matt Bevin expressed frustration Tuesday with a recent court decision that has further complicated the byzantine series of events surrounding the University of Louisville Board of Trustees.

On Friday, Franklin Circuit Judge Phillip Shepherd granted Attorney General Andy Beshear’s request to temporarily block Bevin’s overhaul of the board, stopping the 10-member board appointed by Bevin from taking any further action until the lawsuit is resolved.

That led members of the old 17-member board, who were appointed by former Gov. Steve Beshear, to schedule a meeting for this week.

Bevin, a Republican, warned the old board members Tuesday that any such meeting would “further tarnish the reputation of this outstanding university.”

He contends the former board was illegally constituted because of its political and racial compositions, which had already been challenged by former Attorney General Jack Conway in 2015. The old board, which had two vacancies, had only one minority member and included 13 Democrats.

“With 13 Democrats, one Republican and one independent, it is obvious to anyone that the former board doesn’t even pretend to meet the requirements in KRS 164.821(5),” Bevin said. “Kentucky law clearly states that the University of Louisville Board of Trustees must have proportional representation of the two leading political parties in the commonwealth. The old board didn’t even come close to complying with the law.”

Bevin issued an executive order on June 17 that abolished the U of L board and announced at the same time the imminent departure of President James Ramsey. After several years of financial and athletics scandals, the governor said the U of L board was no longer functional and must be reorganized to improve efficiency and “frankly, to improve the administration of the university.”

Former U of L board chairman Larry Benz said the old board would meet to ratify the actions of the new board, which accepted Ramsey’s resignation last week.

Bevin called on Andy Beshear, a Democrat and the son of the former governor, to explain whether he believes the old board was illegally constituted and whether it “has the authority to meet and conduct business on behalf of the university?”

“It is time for the Attorney General to stop playing self-serving, political games with the future of Kentucky students and allow the university to move forward with new leadership and a fresh start,” Bevin said.

Bevin had previously announced that his office will appeal Shepherd’s decision.

On Tuesday, Andy Beshear said Shepherd’s decision showed a likelihood that Bevin’s proposed overhaul of U of L’s board violated the Kentucky Constitution.

“The governor’s reaction has been to first attack the judge and now me,” Beshear said in a statement. “Kentuckians deserve better. Our legal challenge is not about who will or will not serve on a board of trustees. It is to prevent the governor from asserting ‘absolute authority’ to control the board and the university by dissolving the board anytime he disagrees with it.”

Linda Blackford: 859-231-1359, @lbblackford