By Shelby Brown–
The U of L Foundation has fired administrative officer Kathleen Smith, who had been on paid leave following the resignation last fall of former President James Ramsey. Chief Operating Officer Keith Sherman confirmed Smith’s contract was terminated, saying he had no further comment.
During the forensic investigation committee meeting today, Smith went unmentioned. But Smith’s lawyer, Ann Oldfather, wrote the foundation board stopped Smith’s salary and benefits effective June 22.
Oldfather lashed out at the directors in a statement, blaming them for sexism, breach of contract and scapegoating.
“(N)ow they need a ‘fall girl’ with almost $2 million paid for the ‘you can’t rely on this’ Alvarez and Marsal ‘information,'” Oldfather said. “And Kathleen, who never had a vote on any foundation decision, is it.”
On June 8, Oldfather called the investigation a “one sided smear campaign,” stressing the 46 years Smith devoted to the university and foundation.
Smith was named foundation chief administrative officer by Ramsey just before he resigned Sept. 16, 2016. Since September, Smith has been on a $242,000 paid leave.
Smith’s name is found multiple times in the audit. The auditors detailed emails showing Smith trying to hide deferred compensation going back to 2008. Smith suggested that Minerva, a foundation subsidiary company handling the $22 million in compensation, should have a nickname.
“Thought taking the vowel out of Minerva could work too,” Smith suggested to foundation attorney David Saffer in an email. “(It) needs to be difficult to figure out for the media.”
Smith asked how to move foundation LLCs “into something more obscure that would be difficult to find” via open records requests. While Smith worked on obscuring paper trails, auditors report she also destroyed them. In a 2012 message to athletics COO Kevin Miller, Smith asked him to “destroy (his) earlier note to (her.)” She told him she had “done the same here.”
Foundation Chairwoman Diane Medley said no additional progress regarding litigation has been made despite executive sessions at nearly every meeting recently.
The foundation board formed a forensic investigation ad hoc committee June 14 to further examine audit issues.
“We don’t want to instigate litigation that’s not accurate,” Medley said.
While the board of directors offered few words, Smith’s attorney calls her dismissal a “cowardly failure” at transparency.
“We will speak for Kathleen and a fully-informed jury can decide if she was worth it,” Oldfather said.