Attorney General Still Reviewing Political Makeup of Democrat-Heavy University Boards

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Kentucky's Capitol Building

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Kentucky’s Capitol Building

Gov. Steve Beshear’s recent appointments to the University of Louisville Board of Trustees violated state law regarding minority representation and board diversity, according to an opinion issued Tuesday by Attorney General Jack Conway.

The opinion notes that the board is not reflective of the minority racial composition of Kentucky and thus out of compliance. The law doesn’t outline any specific penalties, but the opinion makes clear Beshear must remedy the matter and “undertake corrective action.”

Party Affiliation ChartOur newsroom in July first reported that Beshear had passed over three black candidates for the board, which lacks a black appointee for the first time in 45 years. Kentucky law requires that the board have a proportional representation of minorities.

Tuesday’s opinion, while noteworthy on several fronts, may also tip Conway’s hand in a similar case that’s under his review.

Conway’s office has been examining the makeup of top university boards in regards to political affiliations.

A KyCIR investigation in August found that the governing boards of the University of Kentucky, the University of Louisville and the Kentucky Community & Technical College System had too many Democrats and too few Republicans, contrary to state law. Despite settling a lawsuit years ago against the Ernie Fletcher administration in 2008 to cure Republican-heavy boards, Beshear went too far in the other direction. Today they are stacked with Democrats, most of whom helped bankroll Beshear’s campaigns. (Read “Democrat-Heavy College Boards Run Counter to Kentucky Law)

A spokeswoman for Conway — the Democratic candidate for governor — said at the time that the attorney general’s office would “independently review” the matter. “If the boards are not in compliance, we will communicate that to Gov. Beshear,” Allison Martin said.

Martin had nothing to add to that Wednesday, saying only that the issue is still under review.

For more on Tuesday’s opinion, see WFPL News’ story. You can also search this database of university trustees and spouses who have donated to gubernatorial campaigns.

Of the 31 U of L trustees and spouses who contributed to the Beshear campaign in 2011, 22 gave the state maximum of $2,000.

Editor Brendan McCarthy can be reached at bmccarthy@kycir.org or (502) 814.6541.

Disclosure: In October 2014, the University of Louisville, which for years has donated to Louisville Public Media, earmarked $10,000 to KyCIR as part of a larger LPM donation. Trustee Stephen Campbell has donated to KyCIR.