uoflA lawsuit challenging the lack of minority representation on the University of Louisville Board of Trustees has been settled, with all parties agreeing that Gov. Matt Bevin is to appoint two racial minorities to the board as soon as possible to make it compliant with state law. The settlement — agreed to by Bevin and Trustees Chair Larry Benz — also states the board cannot legally take any major action until those new trustees are placed on the board.

The March 18 settlement reported today by WDRB comes as a motion for a no-confidence vote on Ramsey’s leadership is scheduled for the trustees’ next board meeting on April 20. Benz tells Insider Louisville this meeting could now be delayed if the new trustees are not placed on the board by that date.

West Louisville ministers belonging to the Kentucky Justice Resource Center filed the lawsuit last year, alleging that then-Gov. Steve Beshear had violated state law by appointing no African-Americans to U of L’s Board of Trustees; specifically, they argued three black appointees were required due to the African-American population in Louisville. Once Beshear appointed African-American William Summers IV late last year, the governor countered that the board now had the required two racial minorities on the board, arguing that recent appointee Paul Diaz should count because he is Hispanic. In January, Gov. Bevin sided with the Kentucky Justice Resource Center in the lawsuit, saying he intended to nullify Beshear’s last three appointments to the board.

However, this month’s settlement states that due to recent trustee resignations — including that of Diaz — no one on the board will have to be removed, and it will be legally constituted once Bevin appoints two trustees that are racial minorities. Bevin must appoint these two nominees “as soon as possible” after the Governor’s  Postsecondary Education Nominating Committee provides a list of recommended names from which to choose.

Jeff Mosley, the chair of that nomination committee, did not immediately return a voicemail from IL asking when he expects the committee to provide the names of nominees to Bevin.

U of L President James Ramsey (left) and Board of Trustees Chair Larry Benz outside January's board meeting
U of L President James Ramsey (left) and Board of Trustees Chair Larry Benz outside January’s board meeting

The settlement states that until the Board of Trustees is legally constituted, they agree not to take “any structural or other significant actions, including major personnel actions, or engage in any business regarding potential structural or other significant actions, including major personnel actions.”

Trustees Chair Larry Benz — who publicly supports the no-confidence vote on Ramsey — told Insider Louisville on Friday that the board will not meet until Bevin makes his two appointments agreed to under the settlement, and the April 20 meeting would have to be pushed back if Bevin does not make the appointments by that time.

At their March 1 meeting, a motion for a no-confidence vote in Ramsey’s leadership was blocked by his allies on procedural grounds and rescheduled for April. Trustees supportive of the motion expressed confidence that it would have passed, and nine publicly stated they would have voted for it — one shy of what was needed to pass. The faculty representative to the trustees has asked faculty senators to gauge the opinion of their colleagues on the motion in order to inform her own vote, as has student representative Victoria Allen. The Staff Senate’s representative on the Board of Trustees also has a vote, but has not responded to IL’s questions on how she will determine her vote.

In an email sent to all students, faculty and staff at U of L last week, Ramsey referred to his critics on the board who want to give him a vote of no confidence and listed his accomplishments since taking the position in 2002, but also said trustees are frustrated by “the illegality of the Board’s composition.”

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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]