The board of the University of Louisville Foundation on Friday accepted President James Ramsey’s resignation, which is effective immediately and will end any formal ties he has with the university.
Bob Hughes also stepped down from his position as chairman of the foundation’s board, though he will remain one of the 15 directors of that board. Brucie Moore — who is one of four directors who serves on the board by virtue of being a university trustee — was elected to replace Hughes as chair.
Ramsey — who resigned as president of the university in July amid numerous controversies — did not receive a payout or severance package as a term of his resignation as foundation president, according to Hughes. Ramsey had faced criticism for receiving roughly $2 million annually in compensation from the foundation in recent years, a figure that far exceeds that of other university presidents. His dual role as president of both the university and its nonprofit foundation was also uncommon among his peers and a point of contention for his critics.
In Ramsey’s resignation letter delivered to the board at 9 a.m. Friday, he said he was proud to have been a part of the university’s growth and development and will remain available to assist it in the future. However, Ramsey also took parting shots at his critics on the UofL Board of Trustees and its chairman Larry Benz, questioning that board’s “legitimacy” and saying “false” criticism of his leadership “has caused incalculable damage” to the university.
Ramsey did not attend Friday’s meeting.
These leadership moves by the board of the foundation appear for the moment to have eased escalating tension between Hughes and the UofL Board of Trustees, as just last week the trustees voted nearly unanimously for a resolution threatening to sue the foundation if it did not take steps to increase transparency and accountability. Earlier this week, Benz — who is also a director on the foundation board — clashed with Hughes about several actions he wanted him to take to restore confidence in the foundation, including securing Ramsey’s resignation, the appointment of new board directors, and the approval of a forensic audit firm chosen and directed by the university to examine foundation finances.
During a joint press conference on Friday, both Hughes and Benz called the meeting a positive step forward for the university. Benz said the resignation of Ramsey and the appointment of four new directors to the board were steps that reduce the chance of a lawsuit, while Hughes — long one of Ramsey’s biggest supporters — also called that resignation a positive, as “times change and I think we have to adapt.”
“There’s been a lot of back and forth over the past several weeks, but I think it culminated in a positive meeting today, and I’m pleased with it,” said Hughes.
Benz and Hughes previously had butted heads over the scope of the foundation’s audit and who would select and direct the firm to conduct it, but no vote was taken on an RFP for that firm in Friday’s meeting. The board also approved the hiring of four additional staffers to compile documents requested of it through Benz’s recent open records request.
While Benz said the board did not follow through on each of his requests for the foundation’s “pathway to restored confidence,” he called today’s meeting “a very positive” step that “set the environment up for a collaborative discussion of the other pathways. So we’ve enabled positive conversation about the other things that have to happen.” He added that the risk of a lawsuit has passed for the time being, as the execution of this pathway has begun, “but it’s going to take some time.”
As the new chair of the foundation board, Brucie Moore told reporters that Ramsey’s resignation “allows us to continue our upward trajectory for the university and go forward, instead of continuing to repeat information from the past. My goal is to bring back the confidence to the foundation for all of the stakeholders – our donors, our students, our staff, our faculty, our alumni.”
Moore said the new board will convene as soon as possible to address the concerns over turning records over to Benz and hiring a forensic accounting firm, as she wants to be sure the foundation will “follow the law concerning all documents and transparency.” In a departure from Hughes’ stance, she said the board of trustees should be the institution to select the forensic accounting firm, though the process should be a joint effort of both boards.
Asked if the threat of the university suing the foundation has passed, Moore said “I certainly hope so. I don’t think any lawsuit between the trustees and the foundation is necessary or productive.”
“My heart is with this university,” said Moore. “Some of you might think I’m naïve (to think) that we can overcome these mountains, but I am not… Yes, we’ve been rocky, but all major institutions that have grown the way this university has grown encounter some of those issues. But we’re getting ready to hopefully move forward.”
In addition to reappointing William Selvidge as a director of the foundation board, four new directors were approved in Friday’s meeting: Pat Carrico, Alice Houston, Diane Medley and Ronnie Abrams. Kathleen Smith — who was Ramsey’s chief of staff at the university and an assistant secretary at the foundation — resigned from her UofL position on Thursday but is still employed by the foundation.
Ramsey’s resignation letter — which takes aim at criticism lodged at him from Benz about a $38 million loan from the university to the foundation under his watch — is below: