Politics

Days after a judge temporarily blocked Gov. Matt Bevin’s overhaul of the University of Louisville board of trustees, Bevin said it would “tarnish the reputation” of the school if the old version of the board meets later this week.

The governor’s office has argued that the overhaul was necessary to bring the board in alignment with state law that requires the board to reflect the racial and political makeup in the state. The board had too many Democrats and too few racial minorities before the revamp, according to state law.

“A meeting of an illegally constituted board would only further tarnish the reputation of this outstanding university,” Bevin said in a statement. “It would clearly show that those who insist upon this course of action are not truly interested in the best interests of the University of Louisville.

Attorney General Andy Beshear is suing the governor for abolishing the old 17-member board and replacing it with a new 10-member panel. On Thursday, Franklin Circuit Court Judge Phillip Shepherd temporarily blocked the new board from meeting until the lawsuit is resolved.

The old version of the board is made up of 13 Democrats, one Republican and one Independent. According to state law, that means 6 or 7 board members should be Republicans. There were two vacancies on that board.

“The old board didn’t even come close to complying with the law,” Bevin said in the statement.

Former Gov. Steve Beshear was sued by West Louisville-based Justice Resource Center for having only one racial minority on the U of L board, arguing that state law requires there to be at least three. After he took office, Bevin agreed with the group earlier this year but made no additional appointments at the time.

The Kentucky Center for Investigative Reporting revealed that during last year’s round of appointments, Beshear passed over three black candidates in the process. He later appointed an African American to the board, Bill Summers IV.

Attorney General Andy Beshear said that his suit against the governor “is not about who will or will not serve on a board of trustees.”

“It is to prevent the governor from asserting ‘absolute authority’ to control the board and the university by dissolving the board anytime he disagrees with it,” Beshear said in a statement.

In the lawsuit, Beshear argues that state law prevents the governor from removing trustees “without cause.” Bevin argues that he has the authority to single-handedly reshape boards and commissions and that the legislature has the opportunity to approve or disapprove when it reconvenes in January.

Meanwhile, Bevin recently approved a contract for a law firm to probe the previous administration of Gov. Steve Beshear. Bevin has alleged that members of the previous administration shook down state workers for campaign contributions.

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