Open records: Ramsey extended Smith's appointment six days before resigning

Open records: Ramsey extended Smith's appointment six days before resigning

LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - Her 45 years in a variety of administrative roles made Kathleen Smith part of the furniture at the University of Louisville.

An open records request by WAVE 3 News reveals Dr. James Ramsey was so intent on ensuring she maintain her role with the separate fundraising UofL Foundation that he appointed his then-Chief of Staff, the Foundation's Chief Administrative Officer effective July 22 - six days before he resigned under pressure as the university's president.

"You have been able to secure over (sic) $100 million in competitively-awarded federal and state funds to finance the 'curb appeal' and road projects that transformed the university," Ramsey wrote. "In addition, you have secured another $50 million for academic initiatives, making you the university's best fundraiser."

Smith's assignment was to pay $242,144 in salary, plus $100,000 in deferred compensation and a car allowance of $12,000, through June 30, 2017. But Smith has been paid more than $4,656 per week not to work for the past three weeks, while her attorney and foundation representatives negotiate the terms of her departure.

"It's a misnomer to say she's being paid all this 'extra' money," Ann Oldfather, Smith's attorney, told WAVE 3 News on Friday. "Her salary has covered her work with the foundation and the university for years. The foundation had given her this contract in March, when it became clear that (state) cuts were coming. The deal simply hadn't been executed."

Gov. Matt Bevin mandated 4.5 percent cuts to university allocations for the fiscal years beginning July 1, 2016 and July 1, 2017.

"The change called for the foundation and for university holdings to cover half the costs," Oldfather said.

But tax records reveal the foundation awarded Smith substantial bonuses, or "deferred compensation," and least twice - more than $1,401,832 in 2012 and more than $259,000 in 2013.

WAVE 3 News' open records requests reveals Smith extended contracts for two public relations firms: Tandem Public Relations & Marketing and RunSwitch PR, to June 30, 2017 (the end of Kentucky's current fiscal year), effective September.  A tandem principal, Sandra Frazier, is one of Bevin's appointees to a "reorganized" UofL Board of Trustees whom a Franklin Circuit Judge enjoined from serving after Attorney General Andy Beshear challenged the "reorganization" on constitutional and statutory grounds.

Ramsey resigned as president of the UofL Foundation on Sept. 16. He left Smith with a substantial "to-do" list in her Letter of Employment (below).

Finish the roundabout at Floyd and Brandeis.Begin and complete the installation of the Herman and Heddy Kurz Information Center at Eastern Parkway.Complete the Master Plan for the silo propertyComplete the interior road and utilities infrastructure for the Belknap Engineering Research Park, including the aesthetic components of the "connector" roadway.Implement Innovation Way and build the pedestrian overpass to link the Research Park with the Speed School of Engineering.Design the parking garage for the Belknap Research Park.Begin construction of the CSX railroad overpass near the Northern expansion of Papa John's Cardinal StadiumOversee roadway improvements at the intersection of Shelbyville Road & Hurstbourne Lane.Work on the proposed build-out of ShelbyHurst to accelerate eligibility for tax-increment financing.Secure 'leasing opportunities' on Fourth Street to ease parking issues."Other projects as they arise."

The foundation's Board of Directors changed Smith's title, but not her duties in a staff re-appointment Sept. 15. Thirteen days later, she received notice from foundation board chairwoman, Brucie Moore, that she was being placed on paid administrative leave.

"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," Trustees chairman Dr. Larry Benz said Thursday, minutes after the board rescinded its authorization to Trustee Foundation to release financial records.

Benz confirmed that securing Smith's departure was a condition of the board's decision. A Joint Audit Oversight Committee, including representatives from the foundation and trustees boards, has begun vetting applications to conduct a "forensic level" audit of the foundation's finances, operations and practices. Ten accounting-audit firms have submitted proposals. The committee is hopeful of selecting a firm in early November, chairman Diane Medley said Thursday.

"We are working hand-and-glove with the foundation," Benz said. 'We are completely aligned with them."

Smith is negotiating for a severance package "that fairly reflects her contributions and service," Oldfather told WAVE 3 News on Friday.

"I'll leave it up to the attorneys to determine what's fair," said Benz, who also serves as a foundation director.

"We've put together a proposal," Oldfather said. "We haven't heard back yet."

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