Moments after state Attorney General Jack Conway issued an opinion stating that Gov. Steve Beshear violated state law by failing to place a single African-American on the University of Louisville’s Board of Trustees, current board member Steve Wilson sent his letter of resignation to Beshear, advising him to appoint an African-American to replace him.
“When I accepted your appointment, I certainly intended to serve out a full term,” wrote Wilson. “However, like many others in our community, I am concerned about the current lack of diversity on the Board, a concern I know you share. As a premier metropolitan research university, U of L’s board should reflect its community and I fear the lack of racial diversity on the board may hinder the positive progress the board has started to make under the leadership of Chairman Benz.”
Wilson — the Louisville businessman and hotelier behind 21c — continued: “I have no doubt that you would fulfill your commitment to appoint an African America member of our community at your next opportunity but, without a resignation, there will not be another vacancy until next year. I don’t think we should wait that long.”
Wilson was one of the most outspoken critics on issues of transparency and governance of U of L’s board, particular concerning the hefty compensation of President James Ramsey and several of his key aides by the university’s nonprofit foundation. In his letter to Beshear, Wilson proudly noted that he called for state Auditor Adam Edelen to conduct an audit of the foundation in April, which Edelen responded to in June by announcing his office will review the governance of both the foundation and board.
Beshear has faced great criticism over his recent board appointments that replaced its only African-American member. The attorney general also has faced pressure from African-American ministers in west Louisville over his delay in responding to their July request for an opinion, with Milton Seymore of the Justice Resource Center warning that further delay would result in consequences to Conway’s current campaign to become Kentucky’s next governor. Conway said last month that Beshear’s appointments were a bad move, but that he still was working on a formal opinion.
***** UPDATE 4:30 p.m. *****
Gov. Beshear just issued the following statement, saying he will ask the Postsecondary Education Nominating Committee to convene as soon as possible to submit the names of three potential African-American appointees — while also making a point to tout his own record of diversity.
“I’ve worked very hard the last 8 years to diversify our boards and to diversify our appointments in a number of ways. My administration has a great track record. I made landmark diversity judicial appointments in Jefferson County, and I was honored to receive the ‘Champion of Diversity Award’ from the Louisville Urban League just last year.
The Attorney General’s Opinion correctly points out that the statutes require that there be two minority representatives on the University of Louisville Board of Trustees and that currently there is only one.
As I have said before, while we make every effort to comply with all the different requirements placed on these appointments by statute, because of all the different categories and factors required to be considered, and because terms expire at different times, there will always be situations when a particular board may not exactly fulfill every single requirement for a period of time.
Today, I received a letter from Trustee Steve Wilson submitting his resignation so that another minority representative can be appointed. I will, therefore, ask the Postsecondary Education Nominating Committee to convene as soon as possible to submit three names to me as required by law. I will be specifically asking the Committee to forward names of qualified African Americans so that I can appoint such a person to the University of Louisville Board of Trustees. I would encourage anyone interested in applying to fill out an application online or by calling 502-564-2611, ext. 347.”