News and Music Discovery
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations

In U of L Hoops Scandal, Calls To Board Members May Have Violated Law

Kate Howard, KyCIR

University of Louisville’s board chairman said Wednesday afternoon that the school’s decision to place the school’s basketball coach and athletic director on leave had the unanimous support of every trustee.

J. David Grissom, an attorney who leads the governing board, said he knew this because he personally called each of them, individually, as the latest basketball scandal unfolded. If so, one expert on Kentucky’s open meeting laws says, his actions were a clear violation of state law.

The Kentucky Open Meetings Act requires decisions to be made in open meetings after notice has been given to the public. Grissom said he called each member individually to ascertain their support of placing Tom Jurich and Rick Pitino on leave.

That is considered polling, an activity that’s banned by state law if it’s used to circumvent open meetings and privately discuss public business.

“To call them [all the board members] is a really clear violation,” said Amye Bensenhaver, a former assistant attorney general who wrote opinions on open records violations. “He should not have picked up the phone and called each of those people. It’s a ‘series of less than quorum meetings,’ where the members attendance collectively constituted a quorum.”

U of L spokesman John Karman didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

Bensenhaver said the situation echoes the post-termination battle of another prominent basketball coach: Bobby Knight. His firing was the subject of a lawsuit that argued Indiana University violated the state’s open meeting law when it fired him in 2000.

According to news coverage at the time, the university’s president met with groups of trustees small enough to avoid a quorum, and never issued public notice of the meetings. Following those meetings, Knight was terminated by the board.

The board of trustees is the university’s governing board. Members are appointed by Gov. Matt Bevin. The group would have to vote on firing Jurich or Pitino, according to their contracts.

Bensenhaver said that the law would have allowed the U of L board of trustees to call an emergency meeting and meet in person.

“This is about as clear and direct an example of the violation that I’ve seen,” Bensenhaver said.

Kate Howard can be reached at and (502) 814.6546.

Related Content