Vickie Yates Brown Glisson | Photo via Glisson for Congress

University of Louisville records show that Vickie Yates Brown Glisson finalized her acceptance of a teaching position offer from UofL on Jan. 29 – just a day before she announced that she was resigning from her high-level position in the administration of Gov. Matt Bevin to run for Congress against six-term incumbent John Yarmuth.

According to a copy of the employment agreement obtained by Insider Louisville through an open records request, Glisson would serve as an appointed term professor in UofL’s School of Public Health and Information Sciences. The position would initially be part time from Feb. 1 to June 30 of this year, and then become a two-year full-time appointment through June 30, 2020, with an annual salary of $200,000.

UofL spokesman John Karman told Insider on Wednesday that Glisson did not inform university officials that she intended to run for Congress until after she submitted her signed acceptance letter on Jan. 29. The next day, the deadline for candidates in Kentucky to file for office, Glisson filed and publicly launched her campaign.

The employment agreement — signed by Glisson and Craig Blakely, the dean of the school — states that the offer is not conclusive until its terms have been recommended by UofL’s executive vice president for health affairs and provost, and then approved by the UofL board of trustees. UofL interim President Greg Postel also serves as the executive vice president for health affairs, and the board of trustees may finalize Glisson’s appointment at their next meeting on Thursday.

Glisson was appointed by Bevin as secretary of the Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Family Services in December 2015. In that role, she oversaw the administration’s approved federal waiver to drastically alter the state’s Medicaid system, adding work requirements and premiums for “able-bodied” recipients. She was previously employed by the UofL Foundation from 2008 until early 2016, where she was the chief executive of its economic development affiliate Nucleus.

UofL spokesman Karman told IL that Glisson’s potential contract with the university “has been in the works for a while,” as officials assumed she would return to the school after finishing her role in the Bevin administration. However, he said that Glisson did not inform Postel or Blakely that she intended to run for office until after the employment agreement was finalized on Jan. 29.

Karman wouldn’t say that Postel felt let down that Glisson did not give him a head’s up about her candidacy, as UofL encourages its employees to be engaged in the political process and this was her own decision.

Glisson — the strong favorite to win the Republican nomination — would begin working full time in the fall semester once the general election heats up, but Karman said that “we’re expecting her to meet her obligations here, so we wouldn’t expect it to be a great impact on her work here.”

Karman said that Glisson has not yet begun teaching in the new position, but that she would bring “great experience” to the students in her classroom, which is why the university was working to hire her. Asked whether Glisson’s $200,000 annual full-time salary would be typical for a UofL professor, Karman said this amount was “within range for this particular position.”

The letter dated Jan. 26 from Blakely to Glisson detailing the terms of the job offer stated that UofL will guarantee a six-month notice if the chair of her department chooses not to renew the appointment in 2020. Blakely also stated that “we are supportive of exploring a joint appointment with the Law School at any time during your employment within SPHIS.”

Blakely closed the letter to Glisson by stating that “your leadership and in-depth knowledge of the significant public health issues facing the Commonwealth and the country are impressive. We look forward to your joining the faculty at SPHIS.”

According to emails also obtained through the open records request, Dean Blakely and Colin Crawford, the dean of the Brandeis School of Law, both possessed a copy of the letter by at least Jan. 25. That same day, Blakely wrote Crawford asking when he can sign the letter to Glisson, adding “not sure what the concern is, but she keeps checking with me on where it is.”

Another email chain between the two shows that Blakely received the signed letter back from Glisson on Monday, Jan. 29, with her signature dated two days earlier on Saturday.

UofL’s open records custodian Sherri Pawson told Insider that “a few additional email strings” were withheld due to being preliminary discussions that are exempt from disclosure under the state’s open records law, “as they discussed the potential appointment, contained opinions and recommendations, as well as drafts.”

Glisson’s announcement on Jan. 30 that she was resigning from her cabinet position and running for Congress surprised many political observers, as the incumbent Yarmuth has not faced a strong challenge in the heavily Democratic district since he was first elected in 2006.

Glisson, a Republican, told media when she filed the paperwork for her candidacy that this was “not a decision I came to quickly,” touting her good experience working with the Trump administration and that Bevin was supportive of her decision to run.

At an official news conference of the governor last week to brief the media about her cabinet replacement, Bevin appeared to endorse Glisson’s candidacy, saying “we would do well to have a voice as experienced as hers in Washington.”

Republicans Mike Craven and Rhonda Palazzo have also filed to run for the U.S. House seat in the district that covers all but the eastern edge of Jefferson County, with the primary happening on May 22. Yarmuth’s campaign spokeswoman responded to Glisson’s filing by issuing a statement that he “looks forward to debating whichever candidate emerges from the party of Trump primary later this year.”

According to Glissom’s curriculum vitae, she is a graduate of the University of Kentucky’s law school and has worked for decades as a health and health insurance lawyer. She worked at the Greenebaum Doll & McDonald law firm for 14 years before she began working for the UofL Foundation affiliate Nucleus in 2008, during which time she was also an adjunct professor at the Brandeis School of Law and a member of the Frost Brown Todd law firm.

According to the publicly available tax returns of the UofL Foundation, Glisson’s annual compensation for her work running Nucleus ranged between $334,184 and $383,921 from 2012 to 2016. Glisson remained a paid employee of the UofL Foundation nearly three months after she was appointed to run the state cabinet — with the state reimbursing the foundation for her salary — but resigned from the foundation shortly after WDRB revealed that unconventional arrangement.

After the publication of this story, Glisson’s campaign responded to Insider’s inquiries with emailed answers from the candidate, who said she had been negotiating a contract with UofL “for months.”

Glisson added that she had placed messages to Postel on the morning of Jan. 29 asking the UofL president to call her, and when Postel called her back late that afternoon, she informed him that she had signed and returned the contract earlier that day and “also wanted to give him a heads up that I planned to file for Congress the next day.” She said that Postel “expressed support for my decision.”

She also stated that her contract would allow her to work part time in the fall semester, “but I will work with UofL concerning the decision of whether I will remain part time or will move to full time.”

The offer letter from Blakely stated that “both the duration of the part-time appointment and the start-date of the full-time appointment can be negotiated based on your continuing role in Frankfort,” where she was still employed as cabinet secretary at the time.

This story has been updated due to a clarification from Karman that Glisson informed UofL officials that she would run for Congress on Jan. 29, not Jan. 30, but still after she had submitted her signed and finalized employment agreement to the university. It was also updated to include statements from Glisson.

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Joe Sonka
Joe Sonka is a staff writer at Insider Louisville focusing on government, politics, education and public safety. He is a former news editor and staff writer at LEO Weekly and has also freelanced for The Nation and ThinkProgress. He has won first place awards from the Louisville Metro chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists in the categories of Health Reporting, Enterprise Reporting, Government/Politics, Minority/Women’s Affairs Reporting, Continuing Coverage and Best Blog. Email him at [email protected]