Kathleen Smith — the longtime assistant of former University of Louisville President James Ramsey — has been placed on paid administrative leave from her lucrative position as assistant secretary of the UofL Foundation, just two weeks after her retirement from her position at the university.
This move was announced in an email to members of the university’s board of trustees Tuesday morning by Brucie Moore, a trustee and the newly elected board chair of the foundation. Smith recently announced her intention to remain at the foundation through the fall, but Moore did not explain in the email why Smith is now being put on leave.
In a statement released Tuesday afternoon “concerning personnel matters,” Moore said that she has promised to restore confidence in the foundation and “appropriately review all Foundation personnel,” but did not directly address Smith.
“I am committed to treating every individual fairly and with dignity and therefore I will not make any public statement regarding any actions taken with respect to a particular employee,” stated Moore.
In a statement announcing her retirement as chief of staff for the university president two weeks ago, Smith said that she looked forward to remaining in her role at the foundation for several more months to see through a few projects she has been working on.
Smith has taken criticism over the past two years concerning the lack of transparency at the university and its nonprofit foundation under Ramsey’s tenure, particularly concerning the large compensation packages she received from the foundation, along with Ramsey and former provost Shirley Willihnganz. The UofL Foundation’s IRS returns show that Smith was paid $859,181 in the 2015 fiscal year, $319,146 in 2014 and $1,458,669 in 2013 — on top of the salary she was paid at the university.
In the recent showdown between the university’s trustees and the foundation’s board — in which the trustees passed a resolution threatening to sue the foundation unless it took a series of transparency measures — Smith’s continued employment at the foundation became an issue. In a series of demands for actions the foundation must take to please the trustees and concerned donors, board of trustees chairman Larry Benz specifically mentioned that Smith must “immediately be relieved of any and all duties” at the foundation and its affiliates. Former foundation board chair Bob Hughes had resisted such a demand, saying that Smith was invaluable to the foundation’s work.
Benz released a statement Tuesday saying that he would not comment on any specific personnel action, but emphasized that the two boards “are now working together very cooperatively and are 100 percent aligned for what is in the best interests of the University of Louisville.”
Tensions between the trustees and foundation had already eased considerably last Friday, as the foundation’s board appeared to reach a compromise on selecting and hiring an accounting firm to thoroughly audit the foundation’s finances, which was a top priority for Benz and major foundation donors.
The foundation board also approved the hiring of an attorney to expedite its backload of open records requests, which Moore announced Tuesday would be David Tachau of the local law firm Tachau Meek. In a statement, Moore said that Tachau was hired to “make sure the Foundation complies with the letter and the spirt of the open records law,” as well as handle any litigation stemming from these records requests.