The University of Louisville Foundation’s board of directors will meet Friday to “move forward on critical issues,” according to a press release sent out by its newly elected chairwoman Brucie Moore. The meeting will address an audit of the foundation and complying with open records requests — a recent point of contention with the UofL Board of Trustees and major donors — as well as hiring a new interim director to replace James Ramsey.
A nearly unanimous vote of the UofL Board of Trustees two weeks ago approved a resolution threatening to sue the foundation unless it complied with the open records requests of trustees chairman Larry Benz, who also demanded that the foundation hire a forensic accounting firm — selected and directed by the university — to audit its financial records. Along with a request to examine the foundation’s governance structure to ensure it is using best practices, these were also the demands given to the foundation prior to that resolution by the James Graham Brown Foundation and C. E. & S. Foundation — two major UofL Foundation donors in recent decades — before they would consider charitable donations to the university’s nonprofit foundation in the future.
At last Friday’s board meeting of the UofL Foundation, its directors accepted the resignation of former President James Ramsey, hired two staffers to help with open records requests, and filled five vacancies on the board, but did not take a vote to approve a search for an audit firm. Departing board chairman Bob Hughes had opposed a forensic audit — saying that would only be necessary if crimes had been committed — instead favoring a “comprehensive” audit. Shortly after being voted in as the foundation’s new board chairwoman, Moore told reporters she hoped to convene a meeting with its new directors as soon as possible to move forward on the audit — adding that the term forensic “means different things to different people” — and complying with open records requests.
In Tuesday’s press release, Moore stated she will establish a committee chaired by new board member Diane Medley, a CPA, to “draft a Request for Proposal for a comprehensive audit of the Foundation.” She added that this board would also include new board member Ronnie Abrams, an at-large director, and two trustees serving on this board — one of which she intends to be Benz. Moore also stated she will create another committee “to review the Foundation’s governance and organizational structure, and to suggest any needed modifications.”
At the upcoming board meeting, Moore also plans to request that the foundation hire an interim executive director to fill Ramsey’s old role leading the nonprofit — “someone who will immediately engage in aggressive communication with our donors and stakeholders to solicit input and answer questions about what’s going on with the Foundation.”
Addressing the question of open records requests, Moore stated that she will request that the board “consider retaining additional outside counsel to assist Foundation personnel in the management of open records requests, to be charged with assuring the Foundation complies with the letter and the spirit of Kentucky’s open records laws. I pledge to expeditiously comply with, to the best of our ability, all of the Foundation’s obligations as they relate to open records. Transparency is extremely important to me and I promise quick action on existing and future requests.”
The UofL Foundation’s lack of prompt compliance with open records laws has gone beyond just Benz’s request regarding financial information, as the office of Kentucky Attorney General Andy Beshear recently has given a slew of rulings in favor of journalists appealing the denial of records from the foundation.
Moore also stated in her press release that Friday’s board meeting will include a special report from CFO Jason Tomlinson on the foundation’s financial performance, which will “deal with several questions that have been raised by various media outlets and interested parties.”
Moore closed by stating that she is “looking forward to ushering a new era of harmony between the Foundation Board and the UofL Board of Trustees,” and that Friday’s meeting “will be another step in that direction.”
“My mission is to assure that the Foundation is properly equipped to continue to facilitate UofL’s success, just as it has done in the past,” stated Moore. “With teamwork, a positive attitude, and creative thinking, nothing can stop us from continuing to help UofL become a nationally recognized, premier metropolitan research university.”
Asked if last week’s developments at the UofL Foundation had allayed its concerns about future charitable donations, James Graham Brown Foundation President Mason Rummel told IL in an email that “our position remains the same as outlined in our letter of September 2. Despite recently reported events, we are hopeful that the items described in our letter will be addressed.”
Disclosure: IL investor David Jones Jr. is an officer of the C. E. & S. Foundation