New UofL Foundation Chairman says lawsuit not necessary or productive

Every day is Game Day at the University of Louisville for Brucie Moore whose first challenge as the new Chairman of the UofL Foundation is the threat of a lawsuit from the UofL Board of Trustees.

Moore, who succeeded Bob Hughes in the role last Friday, said she didn’t believe “a legal lawsuit between the Trustees and the Foundation is necessary or productive.” She said the Foundation has approved the addition of two new personnel to help respond to numerous open records’ requests and intends to be as transparent as possible.

Larry Benz and Mark Lynn during Foundation board meeting Friday.
Larry Benz and Mark Lynn during Foundation board meeting Friday.

A graduate of the University of Maryland, Moore is from Waverly in Union County where she serves as County Attorney/Prosecutor. She obtained her law degree from the University of Memphis. She also serves on the UofL Board of Trustees.

“My heart is with this University,” she told reporters. “As I walk around this campus, I see the students, I see the faculty and staff. It’s Game Day every day on this campus. This University has been here over 200 years. We’ve had a rocky few months but every major university responds to challenges, and we’re going to move forward.”

Moore said she was in favor of a forensic accounting of Foundation records, something “that means a lot of different things to different people. This Foundation has grown so much so quickly that we need to get our arms around this process.”

She believes the audit should be a joint effort between the Foundation and the University. “All members of the Board of Trustees are welcome to have input into the process, including the naming of the accounting firm.”

Moore was appointed to the UofL Board of Trustees in 2008 by then Kentucky Governor Steve Beshear. According to the Courier-Journal, Moore has given at least $71,745 in campaign donations since 1998, including $4,000 to Beshear; $1,000 to Beshear’s son, Andrew; and $1,240 to the Kentucky Democratic Party.

According to sources, Gov. Beshear, a University of Kentucky grad, wanted to scuttle the UofL Foundation, and fold the organization under the auspices of the Board of Trustees. All recent Beshear appointments appear to be leaning in that direction.

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Last Friday, Jim Ramsey stepped down as President of the Foundation and Bob Hughes agreed to relinquish his chairmanship in the interest of the University and to promote harmony between the two organizations.

No indications as yet of any reciprocal actions from Larry Benz or Craig Greenberg, members of the Board of Trustees who led the attacks against Ramsey and the Foundation.

The Trustees will meet Thursday to consider nominations, the Foundation on Friday to consider requests for proposals to conduct the comprehensive audit.

UofL Trustees loom as distraction as Game Day comes to town

Great news that ESPN has selected the University of Louisville vs. Florida State football game on Saturday as the location for the enormously popular Game Day show. A milestone with significant recognition for the UofL football program.

UofL supporters, however, should hope that the current Board of Trustees doesn’t do anything to further exacerbate the friction that exists between different University factions. The potential for that to happen is very real.

Larry Benz, chairman of the Board of Trustees, and board member Craig Greenberg.
Larry Benz, chairman of the Board of Trustees, and board member Craig Greenberg.

The day before the game, the Board of Trustees is scheduled to meet with its counterpart from the UofL Foundation. The University board wants to conduct a forensic audit on the Foundation’s books and to fire Jim Ramsey from his Foundation post.

UofL Chairman Larry Benz last week described the Foundation, the University’s largest donor, as an “eyesore to the community,” citing a “culture of secrecy and lack of transparency” at the Foundation.

Benz also reflects the view of some Louisville real estate developers who have expressed competitive concerns about the Foundation’s  development efforts, intended to offset the State cuts  to the University’s budget.

“The Foundation at some point forgot its mission and instead got caught up in the allure of real estate to the detriment of the endowment and the university,” Benz said.

Not a coincidence that local developer and trustee Craig Greenberg, who has been a vocal critic of former President Jim Ramsey, was standing directly in back of Benz at the press briefing. Greenberg is a business partner to Steve Wilson, a developer and former trustee, who has also been critical, suggesting that the Foundation be folded into the University.

Exactly what Benz wants to accomplish at the Friday meeting is uncertain. What is obvious, however, is that emotions are running high on both sides, the University board and the Foundation.

“Our foundation has multiple subsidiaries, holding companies and single-purpose entities that make absolutely no sense,” Benz said. “So, forensic accounting expertise is needed to navigate this complex weave that the foundation has created over the last several years.”

Bob Hughes, who chairs the Foundation and is a University board member, hopes a lawsuit can be avoided. “I think reasonable people sitting around a table can come up with reasonable answers without the benefit of a lawsuit,” he said.

That appears to be a long shot, with some members of the University board apparently focused on just sending Ramsey packing, without any additional recognition, financial or otherwise, for his tenure at the University of Louisville.

Update: The scheduled meeting between the UofL and ULF boards has been cancelled.

 

Per Bob Hughes: UofL Foundation had no plans to fire Jim Ramsey

Contrary to a Courier-Journal report, Jim Ramsey was not going to be cut loose from the University of Louisville Foundation at a specially-called meeting of the group’s Executive Committee on Monday. Nor was his assistant Kathleen Smith going to be fired.

The meeting, which was canceled, had been scheduled quickly over the weekend following a missive from the J. Graham Brown Foundation on Friday demanding an audit and warning that it could withhold donations from the ULF without more transparency.

Jim Ramsey would have served as a resource under proposed agreement.
Jim Ramsey would have served as a resource under proposed agreement.

“Actually the main purpose of the meeting was to issue a Request for Proposal for a full audit as soon as possible and get the process started,” said Hughes. “We have the utmost respect for the Brown Foundation and what it has done for UofL.”

Ramsey’s future was to be discussed, based on preliminary discussions between Bob Hughes, ULF Chairman; Larry Benz, Chairman of the “old” UofL board, and Craig Greenberg, another UofL board member. “We were going to debate accepting Jim Ramsey’s resignation but to be available as a resource until June 30 of next year,” said Hughes. “They indicated they were in agreement and thanked me for taking the initiative.”

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Jim Ramsey gets strong support in UofL tempest

Reassuring to see three of the community’s most influential leaders reaffirm their support for Jim Ramsey as the University of Louisville President in a letter to the Courier-Journal on Monday. Shouldn’t have been necessary in light of what has been accomplished at UofL under his leadership since 2002.

The letter was signed by Jim Patterson, founder of Rally’s and Long John Silver’s, David Jones, Sr., co-founder of Humana, Inc. and Bill Stone, president of Louisville Plate Glass. All three have served as members of UofL boards and have been active in many leadership roles in the community. They cited some examples of UofL’s progress during Ramsey’s administration:

— More Fulbright scholars than Harvard.
— Record ACT scores.
— 5,000 students living on campus.
— Admission into the exclusive Atlantic Coast Conference.
— A vastly expanded campus.
— A foundation worth $1 billion.

Some of these accomplishments were considered totally unrealistic when Ramsey was named President. They have been accompanied by major capital projects and beautification efforts while the  University has  assumed a dynamic leadership role in the community.

“Jim Ramsey has been the driving force behind this record growth of the most meaningful asset in our community, our hometown university,” they wrote, while acknowledging the university has some issues, as does “any complex organization with thousands of employees and hundreds of departments.”

The reason for the letter stems from criticism of Ramsey by Steve Wilson, a member of the Board of Trustees who has called for an audit of the University of Louisville Foundation, suggesting that the foundation should be administered by the university.

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