Gov. Matt Bevin on Thursday withdrew a motion from former Kentucky 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 University of Louisville’s Board of Trustees last year.
Bevin filed pleadings Thursday with the Franklin Circuit Court “expressing his agreement” with the group that filed the lawsuit, according to his office.
Last summer, the West Louisville-based Justice Resource Center asked then-Attorney General Jack Conway to weigh in on whether U of L was out of compliance with the racial minority requirement state law, which requires the board to have a proportional representation of minorities.
Activists said Conway ducked the issue when he released an opinion requiring that Beshear appoint at least one racial minority to the board. The governor appoints 17 of the 20 U of L trustees; by appointing one African-American, Beshear would have brought the total to two.
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 we took a necessary step to resolve the case regarding racial imbalance on the University of Louisville Board of Trustees,” Bevin said in a news release Thursday. “The racial minority representation is insufficient and will be corrected.”
Bevin’s office also said it agrees with the group’s assertion that there should be at least three racial minorities on the 20-member U of L Board of Trustees in order to be in compliance with state law.
Rev. Milton Seymore with the Justice Resource Center said he is “very pleased” Bevin has agreed with his group.
“We feel that this is a great step forward for the board,” Seymore said.
U of L President James Ramsey said in a statement that he supports Bevin’s decision to withdraw Beshear’s effort to dismiss the lawsuit.
“I support Gov. Matt Bevin’s view wholeheartedly and strongly believe we need greater racial diversity on this board that meets the statutory requirements,” Ramsey said. “We respect the law and believe this board should be in full compliance with all aspects of the statutes governing its composition. It has been out of balance for far too long.”
The governor’s office will present the motion in Franklin Circuit Court on Monday, Jan. 25.
If the pending lawsuit is successful, the Bevin administration will be required to have three racial minorities appointed to the board. Beshear’s appointments from last year would become null and void, as well.
This story has been updated.