By Olivia Krauth–
The University of Louisville Foundation secretly discussed a show of support for President James Ramsey Monday, but only after closing the room to the public. One lawyer says it was an illegal discussion.
According to WDRB, ULF board members kicked the media out, saying they would be discussing “pending litigation.” Instead, they discussed a three-page resolution supporting Ramsey.
State law requires public boards to open meetings to the media and public, only allowing closed sessions for discussions involving topics like pending litigation and personnel matters. James Adams, an associate at Dinsmore & Stohl, said the law requires a notice in public meeting about the general nature of the discussion, the reasoning for it and the specific exception to the Kentucky Open Meetings Act being used.
ULF attorney David Saffer told WDRB ULF did discuss litigation, but should have used a different reason to continue the private session when the topic changed to Ramsey. Adams said any litigation discussion was legal, but any discussion about Ramsey was illegal.
An exception to the state open meetings law allows for closed discussion of personnel matters. The exception specifically allows for appointment, disciplinary action or dismissal talks to be done in executive session. ULF’s conversation of public support for Ramsey could not have led to any of those options, according to Adams.
Written by chair Robert Hughes, the resolution says ULF has the “utmost confidence” in Ramsey’s leadership, adding the university’s progress under Ramsey is “significant and measurable.” It also says the foundation board “strongly endorses” the notion of Ramsey remaining in his roles as U of L President and ULF President until his contract ends in 2020.
Earlier in the semester, a few trustees considered splitting the dual presidencies, requiring a full-time president for each. It has not been discussed publicly since.
The resolution comes a week after a tense board of trustees meeting, where trustees discussed a vote of no confidence in Ramsey. At least seven trustees voiced their disapproval of Ramsey at the meeting. Trustees tabled the vote for April 20. Hughes said in an interview with WDRB some board members considered the timing of the resolution, some saying it would be “inflammatory” right now.
The board decided not to reveal or endorse the resolution publicly after executive session. Instead, Kathleen Smith, Ramsey’s Chief of Staff and the foundation’s assistant, read the following statement for the board’s approval:
“This Board of Directors supports the basic tenet of accessible collegiate education for all citizens of the Commonwealth of Kentucky and encourages the leadership of the University and its Boards to be key partners in preserving access to higher education, especially for minority and economically-disadvantaged citizens.”
The statement resembles one of the paragraphs of the resolution, but does not specifically mention Ramsey. The board approved the statement, but Adams said the statement may be “voidable” due to KRS 61.848. The statute says any formal resolution approved when the agency was not in compliance with open meetings laws can be subject to be voided by a court.
File photo / The Louisville Cardinal