Gov. plans to add more Dems to boards

The next members appointed to UK’s Board of Trustees will likely be Democrats to more accurately reflect the political makeup of the state, said an official from the governor’s office yesterday.

The state attorney general and Gov. Steve Beshear’s offices came to an agreement this week that former Gov. Ernie Fletcher illegally appointed too many Republicans to the boards of trustees at UK and the University of Louisville.

State law requires the proportion of Republicans and Democrats on each public university’s governing board to equal the proportion of Kentucky voters registered to each party, said Ellen Hesen, Beshear’s general counsel.

No trustees will be removed from UK’s board, Hesen said. Instead, Democrats will be appointed when any board member quits or retires from the board.

The terms of the agreement are pending until both parties appear before Franklin County Circuit Judge Phillip Shepherd on March 7.

UK’s Board of Trustees has 16 appointed members, seven Democrats and nine Republicans. For the number of board members to match the proportion of the state’s voters, 10 appointees would need to be Democrats, according to the initial lawsuit filed against Fletcher by former Attorney General Greg Stumbo.

Replacing Republican members with Democrats is a long-term solution, Hesen said. Terms expire at the end of this year for three UK board members, Frank Shoop, Billy Wilcoxson and Myra Tobin, all Democrats.

The next Republican board member’s term will expire in June 2009, when James Hardymon will have completed a six-year term.

Removing a board member was never a viable option because it would lead to a sticky situation when deciding who to take off the board, Stumbo said in an interview yesterday.

Staff trustee Russ Williams said when Stumbo filed the lawsuit in September, he worried some trustees would be removed from their roles on the board. Whether or not the agreement between the attorney general and the governor is the right move is something a judge will have to decide, Williams said.

“Until the law’s changed, we’ve got to pay attention to it,” Williams said.

One thing the governor should look at in the future is the proportion of men and women appointed to the boards of trustees, Williams said.

“It’s the 21st century,” Williams said. “The fact that they don’t have a gender balance is a mistake.”

State law requires membership of the board to match political affiliations and racial proportions of voters, but not gender. UK has seven women and nine men appointed to the board. To match the state’s voters, it would need an even number of men and women.

“I don’t want to make political appointments a red herring in this,” Williams said. “If we look at one part of compliance, we’ve got to look at all of it.”