U of L Trustees Reverse Course, Won’t Sue School Foundation

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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.

The University of Louisville Board of Trustees on Thursday reversed course on an earlier proposal to sue its own foundation for records, a sign that tensions have eased following a series of scandals and leadership changes.

The trustees also awarded a stripped-down compensation package to acting president Neville Pinto. Pinto’s compensation includes none of the highly criticized perks that his predecessor, James Ramsey, received.

One of the most contentious issues facing the university board — the threat of litigation against its own nonprofit foundation — is no longer necessary, according to U of L Board chair Larry Benz. The board unanimously agreed on Thursday to rescind the resolution it passed last month authorizing a lawsuit.

The foundation has improved its response to records requests, launched an audit process and made personnel changes demanded by trustees, Benz said.

“We are now completely aligned with the foundation,” Benz said.

Neville Pinto

University of Louisville

Neville Pinto, acting president of University of Louisville

The other big move Thursday concerned Pinto. Trustees agreed to pay the acting president $655,000 while he leads U of L. Pinto rejected any deferred compensation or bonus eligibility. He declined a free car or a car allowance.

“This is really about my responsibility as a faculty member at the university being called to lead the university back to a path that will make our students, faculty and our staff comfortable,” Pinto said.

The board has not yet launched a search for a new president. Trustees are barred from making major personnel decisions until Gov. Matt Bevin appoints new members and increases minority representation.

Pinto was the interim provost in July, making $400,000 a year, when then-president James Ramsey stepped down. Pinto’s new role includes a bump to his base salary, now $480,000, and a $175,000 stipend for taking on the role as president.

Benz said the unanimous approval of Pinto’s contract reflects Pinto’s mature leadership during a challenging time — and a shift toward a culture of accountability with “no illusions” when it comes to money.

“We can’t have these behind the scenes, behind the documents, unauthorized approval of various complex transactions and compensation ever again in the history of Louisville,” Benz said.

Ramsey’s pay sparked controversy because, in addition to salaries from both the university and the foundation, he received bonuses and deferred compensation packages that often were disclosed only in the the foundation’s tax documents. Ramsey’s top deputies, including Pinto, also received lavish perks and benefits. (Read “Ramsey Leaves Top U of L Deputies With Extraordinary Perks“)

In 2014, tax records show Ramsey was paid $2.8 million total.

Pinto’s appointment letter states, he is guaranteed a five-year term as dean of the engineering school for at least $540,000 a year once a new president is hired. Pinto said Thursday he intends to return to that role.

“My job right now is to get the campus ready for a new president,” Pinto said.

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

Disclosures: 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 member Stephen Campbell and former member Sandra Frazier have donated.