Former Louisville basketball coach Rick Pitino and former athletic director Tom Jurich might have just received help in their cases against their former employer from a local news outlet and the Kentucky attorney general.
Louisville’s Courier Journal has received a favorable decision from the Kentucky Attorney General after the paper filed a complaint alleging the University of Louisville board of trustees repeatedly broke open meetings laws.
According to the complaint, several board members, including John Schnatter, founder of the Papa John’s pizza chain, used video teleconferencing equipment to attend closed sessions in the past two years.
The ruling could open the door for Pitino and Jurich to sue to have the disciplinary actions against them reversed. Pitino filed a $35 million breach of contract lawsuit against the university back in November, while Jurich today asked Kentucky governor Matt Bevin to help him reach a settlement with the university.
On Oct. 16, 2017, Louisville’s board of trustees unanimously voted to terminate Pitino with cause, and voted 10-3 in favor of terminating Jurich two days later. According to the Courier Journal, three members of the board attended an Oct. 2 meeting via video teleconferencing in which litigation and personnel matters were discussed during a closed executive session.
The Courier Journal is asking that the board admit to wrongdoing and stop allowing trustees to participate in closed sessions via video teleconference.
“Open meetings requirements are based on a simple concept: If you conduct business on behalf of taxpayers, you must do it transparently,” said Joel Christopher, Courier Journal executive editor. “It’s critical for the university, as it seeks to rebuild the public’s trust, that it commits to the spirit as well as the letter of the law for operating openly.”
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The University of Louisville has until March 3 to file an appeal of the attorney general’s decision.
University vice president for strategy and general counsel Leslie Strohm argued that the meetings complied with state law. "The Board’s meetings were not 'video teleconference' because they did not occur in two or more locations," Strohm wrote in a response to the ruling. "Every meeting of the Board in 2017 occurred in a single location – the noticed location. ... There is no suggestion that the public was prohibited from attending the open portions of those meetings at the location where they took place…Imposing video or audio teleconference limitations upon a public agency’s properly closed sessions would have no impact upon that purpose because the public is not entitled to hear or see the members’ discussions in a properly closed session in any event."