A few random thoughts about the Courier-Journal’s coverage of University of Louisville issues …
In case you missed it, Joe Gerth has a new column in the Courier-Journal, switching from political to a generalist approach, taking on the hot topics in town. He’s working hard in his new role as the newspaper’s “resident expert” on everything Louisville.
Or maybe it’s just that he chooses to ignore them. That would be the easier path for a writer at a publication that fancies itself to be a statewide newspaper. The CJ’s News side provides tons of coverage on UofL problems but only a bare minimum, usually wire coverage, on University of Kentucky issues — totally opposite to Sports coverage where equal coverage seems the goal.
Somewhere in Florida, Jim Ramsey is catching up on his golf game, hopefully recovering from some of the controversy that surrounded his departure as President of the University of Louisville last year.
Some additional perspective on Ramsey’s compensation at UofL was recently provided by Margaret Handmaker when she submitted her resignation from the UofL Foundation to Diane Medley, the new Chairman of the Foundation.
Ramsey was sharply criticized by some former members of the University Board of Trustees for what some believed was excessive remuneration. The annual compensation in his IRS returns between 2012 and 2014 was confusing because his reported income apparently included deferred payments.
The criticism, not surprisingly, came from Trustees who were not around when the University Board in 2005 adopted a Deferred Compensation Plan — a practice employed by universities to attract and retain key leaders through competitive levels of total compensation and deferred vesting.
In her letter of resignation,Handmaker noted that the UofL Foundation would “be faced with a significant shortage of institutional memory” moving forward with a new Interim Executive Director, all new University Trustees, and all new UofL Foundation board members.
She also noted that “as with other complex boards, the University relies on a committee structure to report information to the full board. Any suggestion that Trustees do not know what is going on at the Foundation is not well informed.”
She attached a memo in which she stated:
— “President Ramsey was recruited by the University of Tennessee, and the UofL Trustees felt strongly that they wanted to do “whatever it took” to keep him at the University of Louisville.
— “In discussions with President Ramsey, the Chair of the Trustees learned that the President did not want a higher salary, but a supplemental retirement benefit would be attractive to him.
— “Once again, the Trustees asked the Foundation to pay this benefit.
— “The same person chaired both the Board of Trustees and the Foundation Board (as was often the case), so the “ask” was a bit of a formality. The grant and the ultimate payout of the retention plan was reported in the Foundation’s IRS Form 990, which is available to the members of all boards and to the public.”
Ramsey also came under attack for retention bonuses for some of his staff, including Kathleen Smith, who served his chief of staff at the University and for the UofL Foundation.
Handmaker notes in her memo that “when (the late) Chester Porter was chair of both boards, he said that it was critically important to discourage Kathleen Smith from electing early retirement. A retention plan for Kathleen was designed by Chester and implemented by the Foundation.” Smith was placed on paid leave last fall.
Handmaker was among four directors who resigned from a group that also included Dr. Salem George, Joyce Hagen, and Dr. William Selvidge.
They were around when Jim Ramsey was in the midst of transforming the University from a commuter school to a member in full standing in the Atlantic Coast Conference, significant improvements in the GPA average of incoming freshmen and higher graduation rates, unprecedented growth in the University’s endowment, unparalleled growth of the physical campus and a boom in student housing.
They saw the best of times under Jim Ramsey and, in recent months, some of the most challenging days ever for UofL.
Junior Bridgeman, who has chaired both the University of Louisville board of trustees and the UofL Foundation board is back at UofL again, thanks to Kentucky Governor Matt Bevin.
Bridgeman is among the 10 individuals named Tuesday to replace a board that lacked political and diversity balance, was unable to conduct a presidential search, and was considered dysfunctional by many. Nine of the 10 appointees are the same as the Governor announced last July., with the exception of James M. Rogers who replaced Dale Bolden on the list.
A UofL spokesman indicated that the newly appointed board will appoint an interim president soon to replace Neville Pinto, who accepted the presidency at the University of Cincinnati. Thumbnails:
David Grissom — Obtained his law degree from UofL, has long been among the power brokers in Louisville, having served as chairman and CEO of Citizens Fidelity Bank & Trust, vice president of PNC Corporation, and executive vice president of Humana.
Name any leading company or institution in the region and there’s a good chance Grissom has served on the board, including Churchill Downs, LG&E, Yum! Brands, and Centre College (where he earned his undergraduate degree). He currently manages the Glenview Trust Company, the largest independent trust company in Kentucky.
John Schnatter— The founder and CEO of Papa John’s Pizza and a major benefactor for Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium. His name is also on the John H. Schnatter Center for Free Enterprise at the U of L College of Business.
Schnatter is a graduate of Ball State, but his wife Annette and grandfather Louis Ackerson are UofL alumni. His brother Chuck, daughter Kristine and two uncles are all graduates of the Brandeis School of Law.
Sandra Frazier — Comes from an old Louisville family that has been very generous to UofL for decades. Her father was the late Harry Frazier and her grandmother was Mary Frazier, a legendary benefactor. Her uncle was none other than the late Owsley B. Frazier, who gave $25 million to UofL shortly before he passed in 2012. She owns Tandem Communications and serves with Grissom on the Glenview Trust board. She earned an undergraduate degree from Hollins University and a master’s degree in mass communications from Boston University.
Brian Cromer – A senior attorney at Stites & Harbison in Louisville, with experience in corporate governance and financial transactions, venture capital and private equity investments, and other corporate practice and business matters. He has degrees from Bellarmine and Kentucky.
Nitin Sahney — Former President and Chief Executive Officer of Omnicare, Inc., and has served as President, Chief Executive Officer and co-founder of RxCrossroads. Vast experience in the healthcare field which should be helpful with University Hospital challenges. He’s a graduate of Punjab University in Chandigarh, India.
James Rogers — Retired Chief Operating Officer and Executive Vice President of Hilliard Lyons Research Advisors, as well as Investment Advisor of The RBB Fund, Inc. and the Senbanc Fund. He is a graduate of the University of Louisville.
Bonita Black — Manages Steptoe & Johnson’s Louisville office, focusing on corporate law, including mergers and acquisitions and divestitures, and corporate, structured, and municipal finance law. Previously worked with Frost Brown & Todd and LG&E. She obtained her law degree from Harvard and a bachelor’s degree from the University of Kentucky.
Dr. Ron Wright — An obstetrician-gynecologist in Jeffersonville. He is affiliated with Clark Memorial Hospital. He received his medical degree from University of Louisville School of Medicine. Worked with Bridgeman and Black on the UofL transition team.
Diane Medley — A native of Meade County, earning her degree in commerce from UofL. She co-founded Chilton & Medley Accounting in 1988 and Mountjoy Chilton Medley LLP in 2010. Today the firm is the 82nd largest financial services firm in the US She is currently the only female managing partner in the top 100 accounting firms in the US.
Governor Matt Bevin has his 10 names for the newest University of Louisville Board of Trustees, wants to get everything lined up, and will announce the appointees on Tuesday.
Keep thine fingers crossed that he has the right people and the board is motivated and ready to go. Tons of ground to make up. And hope that the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS) becomes just another acronym.
A SACS executive said this week that “it appears” state lawmakers “are working to address the concerns” that landed the university on probation.
Members of the current University of Louisville Board of Trustees didn’t need to show up for the board meeting scheduled for Thursday morning. Nor for any other meetings in the future for that matter.
The board meeting was cancelled, along with with the finance meeting, and the individuals serving as board members have effectively been removed. The second time in a year they have been relieved, this time for keeps.
With urging from Governor Matt Bevin, the Kentucky Legislature has passed legislation effectively abolishing the current board and the one that temporarily replaced it last year. The Governor really had no choice because the squabbling had continued and led to the school being placed on accreditation probation.
The current board was unable to conduct a search for a new President because of a settlement of lawsuit challenging the minority composition. Former Governor Steve Beshear had ignored racial and political guidelines, making the board effectively illegal, creating major conflicts while also ousting former President Jim Ramsey.
State Representative Jerry Miller (R-Louisville), who chaired a hearing on House Bill 12 on new procedures, believes the legislation will get UofL off probation as quickly as possible. In a communication to this constituents, Miller wrote, “the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS) has never questioned the power of legislatures to act in such matters. SB 12 does the following:
Addresses the probation status.
A newly established board will be transferred powers, ensuring the University will not go without a board of trustees.
The Council on Postsecondary Education’s Nominating Committee will be required to submit 30 nominations, from which Gov. Bevin must appoint 10.
Requires Senate confirmation of all appointments to the board, (SACS was surprised KY didn’t require this already), sets terms for members, specifies how to determine proportional minority representation on the boards and provides procedures for vacancies.”
Some faculty and student leaders had suggested that the Governor’s best course of action over time would have been to appoint seven Republican members, including two minority members.
Not an option since the terms of at least three of the more contentious members of the existing board did not expire until 2019 or later. Too many venom between board segments. Communications were strained and no significant action was possible. Similar circumstances over the past three years made the board dysfunctional.
These circumstances have been given short shrift by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS), ignoring the rancor that existed, choosing to focus on Governor Bevin, accusing him of removing the board without due process. The reality was that the only options available to Bevin was to let a bad situation continue to fester or to take decisive action on behalf of the University.
By ignoring the reality of the situation and placing the institution on probation, SACS has clumsily embarrassed the University and damaged the school’s reputation. Further, SACS has exposed itself as an association influenced by political ideology and political posturing.
A real concern is that SACS may have relied more heavily on media coverage in the Courier-Journal than independently investigating the situation or interviewing board members and other affected parties. The organization has ignored the negative impact of the actions of the previous Governor, Steve Beshear, who consistently violated guidelines on board appointments, willfully disrespecting the process and ensuring conflict.
SACS should be fair and accountable to the 22,000-plus students, faculty and staff at the University of Louisville, and the even larger number of alumni, and their families, respecting all that had gone into putting UofL on an unprecedented trajectory. The Governor and the Legislature have taken the appropriate steps on behalf of the University, and those actions should be recognized and respected.