The University of Louisville Foundation tried to keep ethics and financial records secret for several months this year. Following our filing of a public records lawsuit, the foundation has produced these records and we’ve agreed today to settle the case.
It marks our newsroom’s latest victory in our fight for openness in Kentucky’s institutions, and a victory for all those who believe that sunlight is the greatest disinfectant.
We filed this lawsuit against the university’s nonprofit fundraising organization in September, after battling for seven months for access to ethics and disclosure forms, payroll and financial documents.
Now, the foundation has agreed to hand over these documents and pay $15,000 in attorney fees. The foundation’s board agreed to the settlement Wednesday afternoon and our attorneys will file to dismiss the suit in coming days.
This is a win for transparency. If you’ve followed our reporting, you know why records concerning the 46-year-old nonprofit and its management of the school’s $667 million endowment should be public.
You know about the recent critical state audit of the foundation, which found unchecked leadership power, broken bylaws and a dysfunctional governing climate. And you know about the complaints of secrecy, the governor’s battle over the board of trustees, the credit ratings downgrade, the questionable investments and on and on.
It is against that backdrop that WFPL’s Kentucky Center for Investigative Reporting turned to the courts to help pry open these records.
We’ve been here before. This is the second such public records lawsuit we’ve filed in the last two years.
In December 2014, our newsroom sued the University of Louisville after it repeatedly refused to turn over a high-profile financial review by an outside audit firm. We settled the suit and won the release of the highly critical report, which the school had kept hidden from the public for more than a year.
The 2014 review, prompted by a series of thefts and embezzlement, found the school’s financial controls lacking, susceptible to fraud and inappropriate disbursements.
These latest documents will be the backbone of upcoming investigative reports. Stay tuned.
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.