Andy Beshear poking around again in UofL issues

Andy Beshear is being a Beshear, inserting state government into the affairs of the University of Louisville again. Always an opportunist, the son of the former Kentucky governor apparently can’t resist getting involved when it comes to UofL.

Andy Beshear usually makes things worse when he gets involved in UofL issues.

Beshear, who occupies the State Attorney General’s office, this week requested copies of former UofL President Jim Ramsey’s emails along with his computer hard drive. Doubtful either source would yield anything, especially Ramsey’s computer which has long since been wiped clean.

But his actions accomplish a few things for Beshear, enabling him to further diminish UofL’s reputation while preventing the University from moving forward from the months-long quagmire. Beshear making this a personal case with Ramsey, posing the possibility of civil or criminal liability.

Some UofL supporters, including this observer, are convinced UofL’s problems began with Governor Steve Beshear’s appointments to the board of trustees, with a suspected goal of derailing the UofL Foundation. Fortunately Steve Beshear’s tenure finally expired, but his son in the AG’s Office has continued to put obstacles in UofL’s way.

It was the AG’s legal challenge to the board appointments of Gov. Matt Bevin that resulted in the flip-flopping of board members and to the University being placed on accreditation probation by the Southern Association of Schools and Colleges. The case still poses a major threat  because it’s still in the court system.

The Beshears are bad news for UofL.

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Alvarez & Marsal, the Chicago firm that conducted the audit of the UofL Foundation, did not specify in its report whether any criminal activity had occurred. The report did include charges of reckless spending, as one would expect from a company commissioned to conduct a forensic audit.

Not satisfied with the original $1.7 million report, the Board of Trustees this week authorized $400,000 for additional work. Maybe the logic is that a few more bucks will generate some more finger-pointing, possibly some actual suspects.

A confusing expense, perhaps extravagant, for a Board investigating excessive spending. Perhaps their instructions to the auditing firm were not clear enough the first time around. The board is spending an inordinate amount of time and money investigating the previous administration.

The threat of criminal and civil lawsuits against individuals who accomplished a great deal at UofL is more than a little counter-productive. That’s true whether it’s coming from the current Board of Trustees or the State Attorney General’s office.

Jim Ramsey basks in vote of confidence from UofL faculty

Jim Ramsey stays on course.
Jim Ramsey stays on course.

He’s not out of the woods yet, but there appears to be a clearer path ahead for Jim Ramsey.

Ramsey has received a nice boost from the Faculty Senate in a confidence vote on his ability to provide effective leadership at the University of Louisville. The Faculty Senate, an officially-recognized governance group for faculty members, voted 55% in favor of Ramsey as opposed to 40% against him. The remaining 5% abstained from voting.

The outcome indicates that Ramsey continues to enjoy strong support from the academic community, the people who interact with the UofL President on a daily basis. Finally given a chance to weigh in on the issue, a clear majority endorsed him.

“In politics, these numbers would be called a landslide,” wrote former UofL Board Chairman Bob Hughes on his Facebook page.

The outcome is the latest in a series of positive initiatives on behalf of Ramsey, including a full-page ad from supporters in the Courier-Journal and an online petition that includes the names of more than 450  people.

Some interesting names on that list, including Senator Mitch McConnell, Board Members Bob Benson, Ron Butt, Bruce Henderson and Bob Hughes, Vice President of Athletics Tom Jurich, and UofL Coaches Ken Lolla and Sandy Pearsall.

Governor Matt Bevin poses with Trustee Bob Hughes at a recent event. That's Trustee Bruce Henderson behind the Governor.
Governor Matt Bevin poses with Trustee Bob Hughes at a recent event. That’s UofL Trustee Bruce Henderson behind the Governor.

A scheduled no-confidence vote on April 20 by the Board of Trustees came and went without a vote. Governor Matt Bevin has yet to appoint two minority members to the board. The Governor, known for respecting Ramsey’s financial acumen, is taking his time to make the appointments.

Given the friction on the board, Gov. Bevin could best serve the University by reviewing some of ex-Gov. Steve Beshear’s appointments. Specifically he should question whether Craig Greenberg, Steve Campbell, Emily Bingham and Larry Hayes have the school’s best interests in mind. Their only objective appears to be getting rid of Ramsey.

Beshear is gone now.  Gov. Bevin may want to invite the aforementioned to submit their resignations. They are not leading and need to get out of the way.

Larry Hayes curious addition to UofL board of trustees

What happens at the top can have a profound impact on University of Louisville athletics.

The recent appointment of Larry Hayes to the UofL board of trustees by Governor Steve Beshear is an interesting choice, given some of the recent interactions within the board.

Larry Hayes
Larry Hayes

Hayes, who recently announced his retirement as Secretary of the Kentucky Cabinet for Economic Development, also serves as the Chairman of the Louisville Arena Authority, which handles the financing and debt service of the KFC Yum! Center.

Hayes also happened to serve as Deputy Mayor to former Louisville Mayor Jerry Abramson from 2003 to 2007. The relationship is important because Abramson reportedly wanted to be the next UofL President in 2002.

A former UofL Trustee confirmed to Card Game that then UofL board chairman George Fisher was under considerable pressure to back Abramson for the UofL post. Fisher trusted his instincts, stood his ground, and threw his support to Ramsey.

Continue reading “Larry Hayes curious addition to UofL board of trustees”

Despite popularity, KFC Yum! Center remains magnet for controversy

More than a little confusing some of the recent activities related to the management of the KFC Yum! Center, possibly suggesting that the community should be bracing for some unsettling news about the sparkling home of University of Louisville basketball.

First the revelation a week ago that Governor Steve Beshear wants Harold Workman fired as chief executive officer of the State Fair Board, which manages the Center. Workman, who has held the position since 1993, has generally been held in high esteem for his management of Fair Board facilities. Never a hint of mismanagement until recently, even though the losses of UofL basketball and Kentucky Kingdom were taking a toll on the Exposition Center.

Then the surprising announcement Monday that the Fair Board had fired Ted Nicholson, the general manager of the KFC Yum! Center. No reason given for the firing, the news coming as a surprise to Jim Host, the chairman of the Louisville Arena Authority. Just a few months ago, Host was describing Nicholson as the perfect individual for the position. On Tuesday, the Fair Board actually requested that Nicholson be reinstated.

None of this makes any sense and no explanations appear to be forthcoming. The only consistent thread is that the arena has been controversial from the beginning and that Jerry Abramson has been been involved in one way or another. That, and Workman was never a public target during Beshear’s first four years in office.

The KFC Yum! Center wouldn’t exist had Workman not proposed a new arena to replace Freedom Hall seven years ago. That was what finally shook then-Mayor Abramson out of his lethargy, kickstarting serious discussions of a downtown arena for UofL. Jim Ramsey and Tom Jurich wanted the arena at the Fairgrounds or on campus. There were reportedly shouting matches behind closed doors at Belknap Campus between Abramson and university officials. And we know who won that battle.

Then there was the controversy over whether to build it on the Louisville Water Company (LWC) site in the center city or on the riverfront site, which was opposed by Humana founder David Jones and Papa John’s John Schnatter, openly rejecting Abramson’s choice, arguing that the LWC site was more feasible. They were joined by House Speaker Larry Clark, from Louisville, a long-time obstructionist when it comes to UofL projects. However, Senate Chairman David Williams miraculously supported the riverfront site and was instrumental in removing the final Frankfort obstacle.

The most plausible explanation for the current personnel controversies is that Abramson is using his new leverage as Lieutenant Governor to settle some old scores. While Abramson has always been good at garnering votes, he was never popular with many business owners or city employees.

The new arena has made possible new attendance records for both UofL men’s and women’s basketball games. This, plus all the sold-out big name concerts, has generated new levels of activity downtown. However, anticipated revenues from the special taxing district are falling short of expectations. We’re also awaiting word on whether the arena was able to deliver on Jim Host’s projection of $500,000 to $1.2 million in profit during the arena’s first full year of operation.

A financial report should be forthcoming soon. We wouldn’t be surprised if the connections behind the personnel controversies become less vague. A setting up of fall guys has begun for some reason.