Lawyer: UofL Foundation puts longtime Ramsey aide on paid leave, - News, Weather & Sports

Lawyer: UofL Foundation puts longtime Ramsey aide on paid leave, negotiating departure

Kathleen Smith (Source: UofL Foundation) Kathleen Smith (Source: UofL Foundation)

LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - Kathleen Smith had hoped to begin her retirement from a 45-year career at the University of Louisville by segueing into continued service at its separate fundraising and development Foundation.

But less than two weeks after its Board rehired her as Assistant Secretary, the former Chief of Staff for former University (and Foundation) President Dr. James Ramsey found herself placed on paid leave, and negotiating a departure prior to the July 2017 expiration of her employment contract.

"I'm not sure who approached whom first," Smith's attorney, Ann B. Oldfather, told WAVE 3 News Tuesday. "As an asset to the University, she's as valuable, as dare I say, (Athletics Director) Tom Jurich. But some Trustees have made clear they'd prefer she leave."

One such Trustee is Chairman Larry Benz, a Foundation Board member who'd opposed Smith's continued appointment after Ramsey resigned as the Foundation's President Sept. 16.

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"While I will not comment on any specific action, I can only emphasize that (Foundation & Trustees) are now working together very cooperatively," Benz said via a written statement issued Tuesday.  The two Boards are "100 percent aligned for what is in the best interests of the University," the statement continued.

Benz and Oldfather confirmed that the Foundation Board's chairperson, attorney Brucie Moore, chose to relieve Smith of her duties and informed Smith, fellow Board members, and UofL's Acting President Dr. Neville Pinto via email Tuesday.

"Who technically is running the Foundation," Moore asked rhetorically following a Board meeting last Friday. "Dr. Pinto, until we hire an interim Executive Director and lay the framework for future leadership. "No, Kathleen Smith is not running it."

Following a two-hour closed session, Board members last Friday agreed to a forensic level audit of operations and expenditures, including deferred compensation and bonuses paid to Ramsey, Smith and others.

Tax records indicate Smith earned more than $1.4 million in salary and bonuses in 2012, when she was listed as the Foundation's Assistant Secretary. Her title became Executive Director & Chief of Staff in 2013, when her reported compensation topped $300,000. 

Smith has claimed credit for raising or helping to generate more than $145 million for the Foundation and University operations.

"I have about six projects I would like to finish before I retire," Smith told WAVE 3 News Sept. 16.

But Benz has questioned Ramsey's and Smith's management abilities and oversight, alleging transfers of $38 million and $29 million from University accounts into Foundation coffers for development projects.

"Neither transaction was authorized by either Board," Benz told reporters Sept. 22. “And in fact the 2015 transaction was in violation of the short-term money-management policy that the Board of Trustees did approve."

Moore has not returned WAVE 3 News phone calls seeking comment. But Oldfather confirmed that negotiations have begun that could sever Smith's ties to the University.

"Brucie has told us she'll be treated fairly," Oldfather said. "The discussions are ongoing."

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