U. of Louisville Foundation Broke Its Own Bylaws, State Audit Finds

A former president of the University of Louisville Foundation broke several of its bylaws, acted without consulting its Board of Trustees, and fostered a “dysfunctional governing environment,” according to a Kentucky audit whose report was released on Wednesday.

James R. Ramsey, a former president of the University of Louisville, was also president of the university’s foundation. He stepped down from both positions this year, after Kentucky’s governor sought to radically restructure the university’s governance, a move that has landed Louisville in trouble with its accreditor.

The state audit concluded that Mr. Ramsey had taken advantage of his position as the head of both institutions, and had largely kept staff and board members in the dark about the bylaws and his financial actions. Still, the audit report did not recommend a criminal investigation.

The report said that Mr. Ramsey had withheld public records after the audit was announced, in June 2015.

“The biggest obstacle we had to overcome, which is a big reason why it took my office so long to complete, was the lack of cooperation by the prior administration to provide the documentation and information we requested as part of our exam,” said Mike Harmon, Kentucky’s auditor of public accounts, in a written statement.

The audit report contains eight findings. In the audit, Mr. Harmon found that by overstepping its authority the foundation’s board had paid Mr. Ramsey beyond the salary approved by the university’s board.

Mr. Ramsey also transferred $67 million in endowment funds from the foundation to the university without board approval, according to the audit.

The university’s chief financial officer was not invited to meetings of the foundation board’s finance committee, the audit found. That practice violated the foundation’s bylaws and conflicted with the CFO’s contract with the foundation.

The foundation’s board members were not properly trained, according to the audit, and did not receive an orientation. The audit also found conflicts among members of the foundation’s board and the university’s board. Administrative tasks involving the university and the foundation were also difficult to separate and created “ineffective governance,” according to the audit.

In a written statement, Neville Pinto, acting president of the university, said he and the foundation’s chairman were working to respond to the audit’s findings.

“We recognize and appreciate that many in the community — including UofL faculty and staff, students, alumni, supporters, donors, and other stakeholders — have concerns about whether the foundation has adhered to best practices,” Mr. Pinto said.

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