- Associated Press - Tuesday, September 29, 2015

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) - Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear’s administration violated state law with his appointments that left racial minorities underrepresented on the University of Louisville’s governing board, according to an opinion from Attorney General Jack Conway’s office Tuesday.

The opinion set off an immediate chain reaction of responses, which seemingly pointed toward the eventual appointment of a black member to correct the lack of sufficient minority representation on UofL’s board of trustees.

Soon after the opinion surfaced, Beshear’s office announced that UofL Trustee Steve Wilson had submitted his resignation.

Wilson, who is white, said Tuesday he was stepping aside so another minority representative could be appointed to the board.

Beshear signaled his intention to do that by appointing an African-American trustee. He asked a nominating committee to convene as soon as possible to submit three names to him as required by law.

“I will be specifically asking the committee to forward names of qualified African-Americans so that I can appoint such a person to the University of Louisville Board of Trustees,” Beshear said in a statement.

The controversy arose this past summer when Beshear made his latest round of appointments to the UofL board.

The Rev. Kevin Cosby, the only African-American on the board, was replaced by businessman Paul Diaz, who is Hispanic. Diaz is currently the lone minority on the board. The sudden lack of black representation on the board drew sharp criticism from civil-rights activists.

It spurred a group of black ministers to ask Conway’s office if Beshear’s appointments to the UofL board had skirted state law.

The AG’s opinion said a Hispanic qualifies as a racial minority for purposes of appointment to state boards. But it said the board’s membership remained out of balance. Based on the state’s minority racial composition, at least two of the governor’s 17 appointments to the UofL board should be minorities to comply with state law, the opinion said.

Beshear, a former attorney general, said the opinion correctly pointed out that state law requires two minority representatives on the board.

The Democratic governor said he has worked hard during his two terms to diversify boards and appointments.

“As I have said before, while we make every effort to comply with all the different requirements placed on these appointments by statute, because of all the different categories and factors required to be considered, and because terms expire at different times, there will always be situations when a particular board may not exactly fulfill every single requirement for a period of time,” Beshear said in his statement.

After the latest round of appointments, however, The Courier-Journal of Louisville reported that UofL trustees and their spouses have been generous donors to Beshear’s political causes.

Wilson noted in his resignation letter to Beshear that unless someone stepped down, there would not be another vacancy on the UofL board until next year. Wilson said that was too long to wait.

“When I accepted your appointment, I certainly intended to serve out a full term,” Wilson wrote. “However, like many others in our community, I am concerned about the current lack of diversity on the board, a concern I know you share.

“As a premier metropolitan research university, UofL’s board should reflect its community and I fear the lack of racial diversity on the board may hinder the positive progress the board has started to make,” he added.

The flap over minority representation on the UofL board had surfaced as an issue in this year’s governor’s race.

Conway, the Democratic nominee for governor, recently promised he would appoint blacks to the UofL board if elected governor in November.

Matt Bevin, Conway’s Republican opponent, recently accused Conway of dragging his feet in reviewing whether Beshear’s administration was out of compliance with state law with its appointments to the UofL board.

Bevin said this week it was “highly inappropriate” to have no African-American representation on the board.

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