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Responding to an open lawsuit filed by the Kentucky Justice Resource Center against the administration of former-Gov. Steve Beshear — which alleges Beshear violated state law by not appointing enough racial minorities to the University of Louisville’s Board of Trustees — current Gov. Matt Bevin has asked the judge in the case to remove three members from that board who were appointed by Beshear last summer.

If the judge in that case agrees to Bevin’s request during the next hearing on Jan. 25, Beshear’s appointees to the board from June 26 of last year would be declared “null and void.” Those appointees were Larry Hayes, Paul Diaz and Larry Benz, the latter of which is currently the chair of U of L’s Board of Trustees.

Bevin’s spokeswoman Jessica Ditto told IL that while these board members have not been immediately removed, this is what the administration’s counsel will request in court on that date.

The Kentucky Justice Resource Center filed the lawsuit against the Beshear administration last year, claiming that state law required the minority representation on the university board — which is appointed by the governor — must be equal to that of the Louisville community. Such a percentage would require at least three African-Americans on the board, but at the time there were zero. Board member Steve Wilson later resigned from the board, with Beshear then appointing African-American William Summers IV to replace him.

“Today we took a necessary step to resolve the case regarding racial imbalance on the University of Louisville Board of Trustees. The racial minority representation is insufficient and will be corrected,” stated Bevin in a press release making the announcement. “It is my intention to comply with the requirements set by law in making appointments, not only to the University of Louisville Board of Trustees, but to every board and commission.”

In a statement, U of L President James Ramsey applauded the move by Bevin.

“I support Governor Matt Bevin’s view wholeheartedly and strongly believe we need greater racial diversity on this board that meets the statutory requirements,” said Ramsey. “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.”

Bevin’s move comes at a time when Ramsey is under intense criticism due to a string of controversies and negative stories surrounding himself and the university. Just hours before Bevin’s announcement, two trustees announced their request to pull their names from a 2015 letter of support for Ramsey. Additionally, state Auditor Mike Harmon announced this week that his office will continue an examination of the U of L Foundation’s governance and structure, which had started last year after multiple stories questioning the university nonprofit’s multi-million dollar compensation to Ramsey and his staff.

Board members also have begun to discuss a possible resolution that would strip Ramsey of his dual role as president of both the university and the Foundation. While Ramsey strongly denounced such a move, Board of Trustees chairman Larry Benz — who Bevin is now seeking to remove — said Thursday that he generally supports “decentralizing” Ramsey’s power within the Foundation, because “if you look at our peers… our current structure is not mainstream, it is not typical.”

This story will be updated.

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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]