Education Politics

Less than two weeks after he announced he would dissolve and reconstitute the University of Louisville’s Board of Trustees, Gov. Matt Bevin on Tuesday received nominees for the positions. And on Wednesday, his announced his choices.

The governor’s Postsecondary Education Nominating Committee offered 30 candidates to fill 10 positions. The governor’s office did not release the names to the public, although WFPL has sought the list through an open records request.

On Wednesday, the governor’s office released the names of his 10 appointees to the board. They are characterized by people at the highest levels of business and entrepreneurship in and around Louisville.

Here they are:

  • J. David Grissom of Louisville — chairman and co-founder of Mayfair Capital (term expires June 29, 2022)
  • John H. Schnatter of Louisville — founder of Papa John’s (term expires June 29, 2021)
  • Sandra Frazier of Louisville — CEO of Tandem Public Relations and a director of Brown-Forman (term expires June 29, 2020)
  • Nitin Sahney of Prospect — President and CEO of Omnicare (term expires June 29, 2020)
  • Bonita K. Black of Crestwood — attorney at Steptoe & Johnson (term expires June 29, 2019)
  • Douglas Cobb of Prospect — partner at Chrysalis Ventures, founder of Greater Louisville Inc. (term expires June 29, 2019)
  • Ulysses Lee Bridgeman Jr. of Louisville — restaurateur and owner of more than 100 Wendy’s franchises (term expires June 29, 2018).
  • Ronald L. Wright, MD, of Prospect —  OB/GYN at Woman Care (term expires June 29, 2018)
  • Dale J. Boden of Louisville — president of BF Capital (term expires June 29, 2017)
  • Diane B. Medley of Ekron, Kentucky — partner of Mountjoy Chilton Medley CPA firm (term expires June 29, 2017)

Three of the 10 appointees are African-American, according to the governor’s office. In January, Bevin withdrew a motion from former Gov. Steve Beshear that would have dismissed a lawsuit accusing Beshear of breaking state law when he did not appoint a single African-American to the board last year. Beshear passed over three black candidates for the U of L board last year, leaving it without a governor-appointed African-American member for the first time in 45 years.

“Today marks the dawning of a new day for the University of Louisville,” Bevin said in a statement. “With gratitude for those who have served in the past, we now look eagerly to the future. These newly appointed board members embody the professional experience, leadership skills and core values needed to more efficiently and effectively oversee, govern and manage the affairs of the university.”

Bevin announced on June 17 he was abolishing the university’s board and replacing all 17 of its appointed members with a new 10-person board, saying protracted battles between a group of trustees and U of L President James Ramsey had rendered the board ineffective. Bevin also announced that day that Ramsey had agreed to submit his resignation to the new board.

“We appreciate Gov. Bevin’s appointment of the new board,” Ramsey said in a written statement Wednesday. “I have met with the three interim board members as well as the faculty, student and staff representatives and I plan to meet with the additional board members soon. I look forward to working with this new board as we move the university forward.”

Attorney General Andy Beshear filed suit against Bevin last week, saying the governor overstepped his authority in dissolving the U of L board and that of the Kentucky Retirement Systems, which manages pensions for state workers. Beshear said Bevin had made the moves not to increase efficiency but to “assert control.”

“Our legal challenge is not about who will or will not serve on a board of trustees,” Beshear said in a statement issued Wednesday afternoon. “It is to prevent Gov. Matt Bevin from asserting ‘absolute authority’ to control the board and the university by simply dissolving the board anytime he disagrees with it. Such power would threaten the independence and possibly the accreditation of the university.”

Kentucky law allows a governor to remove members of state-appointed boards for cause. Bevin’s administration has argued it also has the authority to reorganize boards and commissions via executive order while the General Assembly is out of session.

Steve Pitt, general counsel for the Bevin administration, told Franklin Circuit Court Judge Philip Shephard at a hearing last week that legislators could return to Frankfort and simply vote down the orders to assert their control over the process. He also declined to hear a motion from Beshear to temporarily block Bevin’s reorganization of the U of L board as the legal process plays out.

The finance committee of the U of L Board of Trustees failed to approve a budget before Bevin’s action. That budget is likely to include a tuition increase and may include other cuts to university operations.

This story has been updated. 

Stephen George is Executive Editor of Louisville Public Media.