September 9, 2016

Board of trustees threatens to sue U of L Foundation

By Phillip Lentsch–

The University of Louisville Board of Trustees threatened to sue the U of L Foundation on Sept. 9 if they do not hand over their financial records and agree to an outside audit within five days. The board has been seeking financial information from the foundation for more than a year.

According to board chair Larry Benz, the board will select a forensic accounting firm to review the foundation’s expenses and will file suit if they are unable to hand over their financial records.

Foundation chair Bob Hughes suggested a committee of foundation and board of trustees members conduct the audit on Sept. 8. Benz’s statements contradict Hughes’ plan, saying the accounting firm must be an independent, outside organization.

“This was an extremely productive meeting,” Benz said. “Many donors and organizations have given us a clear message to clean up the foundation because it has become an eyesore for the community and the university.”

Today’s meeting began with an hour-long closed executive session. Towards the end of the discussion, trustee Ron Butt handed in his resignation, citing the “divisive actions” taken by Benz and the rest of the board.

The board’s resolution said Benz and Hughes discussed concerns about the university and foundation, but failed to come to an agreement. After the meeting, Benz said he hopes to see the board and the foundation meet within the next five days to create a mutually acceptable resolution.

“We got to this point because the U of L Foundation lost its mission,” Benz said. “We have to become a university where common sense becomes common practice.”

Pinto said he is optimistic about future discussions.

“I am confident in the path the board of trustees has taken today, and I hope that these next five days allow these two organizations to sort some things out,” Pinto said.

“Given the recent media attention that the foundation has been receiving, it seems necessary that this process needs to be done by an outside organization,” Student Government Association President Aaron Vance said. Vance serves as the student representative on the board of trustees.

Benz is concerned with the foundation’s lack of transparency. In the past 10 days, two major U of L donors – C.E. & S Foundation and the James Graham Brown Foundation – have threatened to withdraw their funding to the university, demanding that a forensic examination be conducted on the foundation’s financial and legal records. The Brown Foundation accounts for assets totaling $76.7 million, according to its 2014 tax report.

The next five days will include heavy coordination between the two governing bodies. The foundation’s next meeting will be held on Sept. 16, but trustees want some sort of resolution before then.

Photo by Phillip Lentsch / The Louisville Cardinal

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