Ramsey Out As U of L President; Gets $690,000 Settlement

Students on the University of Louisville's main campus.

Eleanor Hasken / Kentucky Center for Investigative Reporting

Students on the University of Louisville’s main campus.

University of Louisville President James Ramsey has resigned his post, effective as of Wednesday, and will receive a $690,000 settlement to avoid potential litigation.

The university’s Board of Trustees voted unanimously to accept the agreement after a seven-hour meeting that took place mostly out of the public’s view. The move comes as the attorney general awaits a judge’s ruling on whether the board itself is legal, since Gov. Matt Bevin dissolved and reconstituted it last month.

The attorney general’s office has requested that the governor’s order reorganizing the U of L board be temporarily blocked. If that happens, the old version of the U of L board would be reconstituted.

Board Chairman Junior Bridgeman said he didn’t think the pending action had any connection to their action Wednesday.

“We’re looking at what’s our job — to come in and do the best we can to try to push the university forward,” he said.

Earlier in the day, Ramsey offered terms to resign that included remaining as interim president through as late as June 30, 2017, and receiving his current pay and benefits.

James Ramsey

J. Tyler Franklin / KyCIR

James Ramsey

The deal proposed by Ramsey — which Bridgeman read aloud at the start of the meeting — also included the accrued benefits and one-year administrative leave he was given under his existing contract, ensuring that he would be paid his full salary through 2018.

But the Board of Trustees apparently rejected that proposal, and instead, Ramsey is out immediately with a lump sum payment equal to a year of his base salary with the university and one year of paid administrative leave.

Ramsey also agreed not to take legal action against U of L as part of the agreement and gave up his tenured professorial slot.

“I think it was a decision we came to after normal negotiations,” Bridgeman said. “After a culmination of a lot of things, he just felt that was best for the university.”

According to Bridgeman, interim U of L Provost Neville Pinto is next in line to serve as acting president, but he’s on vacation and nothing has been finalized.

Ramsey left U of L late Wednesday night without talking to reporters.

While he’s out as U of L president, Ramsey is also head of the U of L Foundation, which manages the school’s endowment. It remains unclear whether he will stay in that role.

He posted photos of himself teaching an economics class at U of L Wednesday evening with a message saying it would be his “last class.”

Ramsey became U of L president in 2002 and during his tenure helped remake the university. Once a commuter school, U of L has in the past decade brought thousands more students to live in campus housing, grown the main campus footprint substantially and instituted a major focus on research.

Under Ramsey, U of L has filed for more patents, seen its endowment grow and joined the Atlantic Coast Conference. It also moved to invest in and develop real estate as a way to offset stagnant state funding.

But Ramsey’s tenure has been beset by scandal and controversy during the past several years.

David Dunn, U of L’s executive vice president for health affairs, is on paid administrative leave while he’s under FBI investigation for possible misuse of federal funds.

The NCAA is investigating the men’s basketball program over allegations a former employee, Andre McGee, paid for strippers and sex for players and recruits.

And in 2014, a handful of university officials went to prison on charges of fraud and embezzlement that totaled more than $7 million in university funds.

Ramsey has also drawn criticism for his pay, which reached $2.8 million in 2014 between his roles at the university and the foundation. The vast majority of Ramsey’s annual compensation, though, has come from the University of Louisville Foundation, where he remains president.

Bridgeman told reporters Wednesday night that the Foundation’s board, which Bridgeman also chairs and of which Ramsey is a member, would consider Ramsey’s tenure there in the fall.

Kate Howard can be reached at khoward@kycir.org and (502) 814.6546. 

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. University board members Stephen Campbell and Sandra Frazier have donated to KyCIR.

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