For U of L Leaders, Lax Oversight On Conflicts Of Interest

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Perthsider / Wikimedia Commons

Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium in 2010.

The University of Louisville asks its staff to disclose potential conflicts of interest, but it’s no secret the disclosures haven’t always been scrutinized.

A U of L Foundation audit, released this month, called out unnamed trustees and other decision-makers who personally invested in foundation-backed startups but never disclosed it. Papa John’s CEO John Schnatter filed — and then revised — forms that raised questions about his business ties to the school.

And new forms obtained by KyCIR through a public records request show the athletic association board might not be regularly collecting the forms.

In early May, KyCIR requested all forms filed by athletics association board members since January 2016. U of L didn’t respond or turn over any documents until after a reporter filed an open records appeal with the attorney general’s office.

The university obtained at least some of the forms in the weeks between, records show.

ULAA board member Jerry Tolson’s form was digitally signed on May 25. U of L trustee and former athletic association board member John Schnatter’s form was also created after KyCIR’s request, records show. In an email attached to the form, a U of L staffer asked Schnatter’s spokesman for permission to repurpose one of Schnatter’s other disclosures on May 23.

That form was also filled out retroactively, since Schnatter resigned from the athletic association board a month prior.

J. Tyler Franklin / KyCIR

University of Louisville

The rest of the athletic association forms, which are supposed to cover July 2016 to June 2017, are undated. U of L athletics spokesman Kenny Klein referred questions about use of the forms to U of L records custodian Sherri Pawson, who didn’t return a call or email.

The Kentucky attorney general’s office ruled this week that U of L violated open records law in its delayed response to KyCIR and failing to fully explain redactions of employee business interests or family members with jobs or scholarships at U of L.

A few of the most recent forms from the U of L Athletic Association include some details on business interests or family employment.

U of L Athletic Association board member Dennis Heishman, for example, disclosed that he works for Old National Bank — an entity that loans money to some foundation-related entities and rents a corporate suite at the KFC Yum! Center. Junior Bridgeman noted that he indirectly owns a company which operates an on-campus restaurant through a subcontract.

New athletic association board member Timothy O’Hern noted that he is an officer of Papa John’s International, where he is chief development officer. He mentioned “concessions, tickets, suites and various other Papa John’s related development projects.”

Papa John’s holds a multimillion-dollar agreement with the U of L Athletics Association for sponsorship and marketing. 

O’Hern also serves on the board of a big donor: the John H. Schnatter Family Foundation, which funds the John H. Schnatter Center for Free Enterprise at U of L’s business school.

KyCIR has compiled dozens of these forms from across the university over the last year. Most trustees and employees report no conflicts at all. But we don’t know what we don’t know.

See a conflict worth investigating — or a business tie you’re aware of that’s conspicuously absent? Leave a comment below or email Kate Howard.

Search the Athletic Association’s conflict of interest forms

University of Louisville Board of Trustees conflict forms:

Ronald Wright / Aaron Vance / John Schnatter / Nitin Sahney / James Rogers / Diane Medley / Enid Trucios-Haynes / J. David Grissom / Sandra Frazier / Brian Cromer / Ronald Wright / Bonita Black / William Armstrong / Larry Benz / Robert Benson / David Barker / Victoria Allen / Marie Abrams  / Shirley Willihnganz / William Summers / Kathleen Smith / James Ramsey / Joseph “Jody” Prather / Brucie Moore / Angela Lewis-Klein / Robert Hughes / Bruce Henderson / Larry Hayes / Priscilla Hancock / Douglas Hall / Craig Greenberg / Robert Fox / Pamela Feldhoff / David Dunn / David Dunn / Susan Duncan / Paul Diaz / W D Cogan / Rohan Christie-David / Stephen Campbell / Ron Butt / Glenn Bossmeyer / Jonathan Blue / Emily Bingham / Dale Billingsley / Dana Mayton / James Mardis / Ann Larson / Cheri Jones / Marcia Hern / Amy Shoemaker / John Sauk / Harlan Sands / Neville Pinto / William Pierce

University of Louisville Foundation Board conflict forms:

Vincent Tyra / John Schnatter / Nitin Sahney / Earl Reed / Gregory Postel / Thomas Meeker / Diane Medley / Mark Lynn / Alice Houston / Donna Heitzman / Ronald Abrams / C M Bowers / Paul Carrico / Laura Douglas / J. David Grissom / Donna Heitzman / Alice Houston / Mark Lynn / W Earl Reed

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 Sandra Frazier and former member Stephen Campbell have donated.