The Louisville Cardinal

Foundation paid executives $8 million in deferred compensation last fiscal year

University of Louisville Foundation, ULF

By Kyeland Jackson —

Between July 2016 and now, the U of L Foundation paid executives more than $8 million in deferred compensation.

The ULF Accounting Supervisor Justin Ruhl detailed the payouts during July 14’s finance committee meeting. Ruhl said those payments marked as a liability, draining funds from the the ULF’s $800 million funds.

“The other liabilities in their (finance committee’s) balance sheet includes executive deferred compensation, so our liability decreased from payouts in fiscal year 2017 by approximately $8 million – a little over $8 million,” Ruhl said.

After closed session, the finance committee proposed the foundation adjust its finances. The full ULF board meets Tuesday to discuss those adjustments.

Deferred compensation has blemished the university since news coverage of it intensified in 2015.

This June’s Alvarez & Marsal audit said former university and ULF president James Ramsey was paid more than $8 million in deferred compensation between 2011 and 2016. And the foundation paid compensated former university provost Shirley Willihnganz $4.3 million, former Ramsey aide Kathleen Smith $2.6 million and its Chief Financial Officer Jason Tomlinson $1.3 million in deferred compensation.

A&M estimated the deferred compensation program cost $21.8 million total, and said some payments were not approved by the ULF board.

In a 2012 email exchange obtained by A&M, Willihnganz questioned her exorbitant compensation, saying she didn’t want to “take advantage if this was a mistake.” Smith allayed her concerns, saying the wording for Willihnganz’ payment was purposefully vague.

“We are deliberately ambiguous because ambiguity is in the employee’s favor,” Smith said in her emailed response. “Jim (Ramsey) needs you, as does the university, as his provost.”

Willihnganz stepped down as provost in 2015, and retired as a university professor in 2016. Smith retired from the university in 2016 and was fired from the foundation June 22.

The foundation axed the deferred compensation program in March, paying money promised to employees before the program ended. U of L and the foundation may take further action this month, announcing decisions on potential litigation would be decided in July.

The foundation board meets July 18, and the university board meets July 20.

View the full A&M audit here.

 

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