Lawmakers want to hear from University of Louisville officials after approving numerous contract increases

05/09/2017 04:04 PM

FRANKFORT – The University of Louisville’s forensic audit of its fundraising arm has drained much of its external legal budget, prompting the Government Contract Review Committee to approve the university’s request for an additional $500,000 in legal contracts Tuesday.

That move pushed the total amount of contracted legal work to $1.25 million through June 30, 2018, and it prompted members of the review panel to bemoan recent requests by U of L for more money as it wrangles with the forensic audit on top of ongoing litigation.

Amy Shoemaker, associate university counsel, said the audit on the U of L Foundation should be complete by early to mid-June, with a June 8 board of trustees meeting scheduled to discuss the report’s findings.

On the uptick in legal expenses, Shoemaker said the forensic review conducted by auditing firm Alvarez & Marsal wasn’t expected by the university when its $750,000 biennial contract for legal work was written. She said the firm is working with attorneys from Louisville-based Stoll Keenon Ogden in its investigation into the foundation’s finances, which has driven up legal expenses as have numerous lawsuits filed against the school.

“I wish we had less litigation quite honestly,” Shoemaker told lawmakers. “We do have quite a bit of litigation. We are, as someone said, we’re possibly like a university in a bit of a crisis, so we seem like an easy target.”

“We’re not an in-house litigation shop, so it’s unfortunate that we are in the situation that we find ourselves,” she added.

Sen. Max Wise, a Campbellsville Republican who co-chairs the contract oversight committee, says he has noticed the university coming before his panel requesting contract revisions for more than a year.

He says he doesn’t intend to be a “bully” toward the university, but lawmakers want to see U of L “not have so much of a cloud around them” going forward.

“We want to see the situations get remedied, and I think they will,” Wise said. “… We just want to make sure the University of Louisville is on the right track, but at the same time we’re not at every meeting just continuing to approve and approve without getting some answers in response.”

Wise said he would like to see top-level U of L officials come before his committee once the audit is complete, which Sen. Julian Carroll, D-Frankfort, suggested during Tuesday’s meeting.

Such a request for testimony might require a joint committee meeting with other panels in areas like education, the budget and state and local government, he said.

“I think that’s a fair way to look at that,” Wise said. “… There’s so many areas we could go with that, but I think we do want to see some answers to some of the questions that are happening, and like I said, we want what’s in the best interest for the University of Louisville by far. We’re not playing a bully pulpit up here, and I think if it was a situation involving any other college and university if it’s a public school, if we were to continue to see this repetitive situation, we would be doing the same thing.”

The school also received $300,000 more for its contract with Boston-based Isaacson Miller, which helps search for and recruit candidates for top positions at the university, through June 30, 2018. That puts the executive search contract at $795,000, and Paula Hensel, director of faculty affairs, says most of that will be used to find two new deans at U of L’s schools of engineering and nursing.

The Government Contract Review Committee approved both contract increases, totaling $800,000, on a 6-0 vote.


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