Why We Are Suing The University Of Louisville Foundation

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University of Louisville

J. Tyler Franklin / KyCIR

University of Louisville

The Kentucky Center for Investigative Reporting filed a lawsuit Thursday against the University of Louisville Foundation, the latest step in a long public records fight.

For seven months, our newsroom has sought the release of ethics and disclosure forms, as well as payroll and financial documents, from the university’s nonprofit fundraising organization.

Throughout this long process, the Foundation has resisted or ignored our records requests, delayed and fought to block our access to these public records.

We are filing this lawsuit because information about the finances and administration of a public university and its fundraising unit is in the public’s interest. Courts have repeatedly it made clear: the Foundation is a public agency and part of U of L.

It is our journalistic mission to push for transparency in state institutions and government. It is our job to promote the public’s right to know what is going on behind closed doors.

Students on the University of Louisville campus

J. Tyler Franklin / KyCIR

Students on the University of Louisville campus

Kentuckians deserve to know more about the 46-year-old nonprofit that manages the school’s roughly $730 million endowment. This same public agency has taken out a $38 million loan from the university it’s set up to support. Meanwhile, trustees have complained about a “culture of secrecy” at the Foundation. Answers about who runs the nonprofit, and how, are few and far between.

The state attorney general’s office has ruled four times since August that the University of Louisville Foundation violated Kentucky’s Open Records Act by refusing to release documents we asked for.

We have previously sued the university. In May 2015, we won a settlement and made public a critical financial auditor’s report that the school tried to keep hidden. That financial review, prompted by a series of high-profile thefts and embezzlement, found a university system that had been susceptible to fraud and inappropriate disbursements, among other shortcomings.

Despite our best efforts, the University of Louisville Foundation continues to fight to keep information and documents from the public. Our lawsuit seeks to change that.

Read the suit:

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

Disclosure: In 2015, the University of Louisville, which for years has donated to Louisville Public Media, earmarked $3,000 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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