Governor says trustee appointments are legal

Gov. Ernie Fletcher’s office sent a harsh response to Attorney General Greg Stumbo, who demanded that some of the Republican members on the Board of Trustees at UK and the University of Louisville be removed.

“It defies the law, common sense and simple arithmetic to claim, as you do, that there must be exactly 10 Democrats on both boards at all times,” said Fletcher’s general counsel, David E. Fleenor, in the letter to Stumbo.

The letter, released to the media Wednesday and received by the attorney general’s office yesterday, is in response to Stumbo’s calls for the resignation of three members of UK’s Board of Trustees and two members of U of L’s Board.

Stumbo, a Democrat, said the Board’s Republican majority violates a state law, which requires the Boards of Trustees at the state’s public research universities to reflect the political affiliations of registered voters.

In response to Stumbo’s letter, sent Aug. 27, Fletcher spokeswoman Jodi Whitaker said the governor has followed the law. The response letter to Stumbo also said Fletcher is acting within “the spirit and letter of the law.”

“It is in the position of the Office of the Governor that your conclusions are in error both factually and legally,” Fletcher’s response said.

Stumbo will take legal action against Fletcher, although he will not announce a plan of action until next week after he reviews his options, said Stumbo spokesman Corey Bellamy.

“I gave the Governor the opportunity to correct his unlawful actions, but he has chosen once again to waste taxpayer dollars in a legal showdown,” Stumbo said in a statement.

In Kentucky, 56.9 percent of registered voters are Democrats and 36.6 percent are Republicans, according to the Kentucky State Board of Elections.

The UK Board has 16 gubernatorial appointees. To parallel the state’s partisan makeup, it should have 10 Democrats and six Republicans, Stumbo said in the letter.

Currently, UK’s Board of Trustees has seven Democrats and nine Republicans, Stumbo’s letter said.

Fletcher’s response disputes Stumbo’s numbers, saying there are eight Republicans and eight Democrats on UK’s Board, and that when faculty and staff representatives are counted, it is “readily apparent” that both UK and U of L’s Boards have a Democratic majority.

“Your mathematical computations are wrong,” Fleenor said in Wednesday’s response. “Even according to your hypertechnical reading of the statutes, 56 percent of 16 is at most nine, not 10.”

The letter from Fletcher’s office also said for Stumbo to demand 10 Democrats on UK’s Board is “as self-serving as it is wrong.”

“The law does not — and plainly cannot — require strict compliance with a precise proportionality formula,” Fleenor said in the letter.