Politics

A judge has denied Gov. Matt Bevin’s request to vacate a ruling against the governor’s overhaul of the University of Louisville Board of Trustees.

The governor’s office requested the modification earlier this week, saying that the court had misinterpreted facts in the case and made a “manifest error of law” in its legal analysis.

Franklin Circuit Court Judge Phillip Shepherd ruled last month that Bevin didn’t have the authority to abolish the U of L board because trustees couldn’t be removed without cause. On Friday, Shepherd ruled that “there is no reason to re-open this case, or to delay its finality, with additional arguments.”

Bevin argued that he didn’t “remove” board members but instead abolished the board in its entirety, which the governor says he had the authority to do.

In the decision from Friday, Shepherd once again ruled that abolishing the board amounted to removing its members.

“It defies common sense, and the basic rules of English grammar, to interpret these facts to mean that those Board members were not removed from office, as the Governor argues,” Shepherd wrote. “While they may have been removed by Executive Order rather than a letter of termination, they were removed nonetheless. They all served on the Board one day, and were no longer on the Board the next day. This may be inconvenient for the Governor’s legal argument, but it is a fact.”

Bevin issued an executive order abolishing the 17-member U of L board in June, creating a new 10-member board and appointing all-new members.

Attorney General Andy Beshear challenged the reorganization, arguing that Bevin didn’t have authority to dismiss board members without cause.

Shepherd blocked the move last month, putting the “old” version of the board back into place.

In a statement issued on Friday, Bevin press secretary Amanda Stamper said the governor’s office was “disappointed but not surprised” by the ruling.

“The court continues to ignore binding precedent from the Kentucky Court of Appeals, the plain language of the statute at issue, and a recent opinion from the Office of the Attorney General, that the Governor has authority to propose and temporarily implement the reorganization of the University of Louisville Board of Trustees,” said Stamper.

The governor’s office also asked the court to amend the court’s finding that the governor had improperly arranged for the resignation of former U of L President James Ramsey as a condition of abolishing the board.

When Bevin announced the U of L overhaul, he distributed a letter from Ramsey, which said the new board should have an opportunity for a “fresh start” and that he would offer his resignation to that board once it is created.

Shepherd said without any further evidence provided by the governor’s office, the letter showed the governor “improperly interjected himself into the governance of the University.

“The Court believes that weight of the evidence supports a finding that Dr. Ramsey and Governor Bevin reached an agreement for the Governor to replace the Board as a condition of Dr. Ramsey’s resignation/retirement,” Shepherd wrote.

Stamper said Bevin “will certainly file an appeal within the next 30 days.”

This story has been updated. 

Ryland Barton is the Capitol bureau chief for Kentucky Public Radio.