C-J Editorial Board Takes UofL Leaders to Task

This is one of those rare occasions where we’re alomst solidly with the editorial board of the Courier-Journal. Rare, we know.

The paper, in what we’ll call baby steps, did its best to hold University of Louisville President Jim Ramsey and Provost Shirley Willihnganz– along with Board of Trustees Chairman J. Chester Porter– accountable for their abysmal failure during the Robert Felner fiasco.

Have a look:

What’s shocking is the failure of top university administrators to look seriously enough, and early enough, at evidence that Education Dean Robert Felner was leaving academic wreckage behind…

-SNIP-

President James Ramsey and Provost Shirley Willihnganz should have admitted much, much sooner that Felner’s tenure was collapsing into an organizational and managerial debacle. And they should have reacted accordingly.

Instead, even in the backwash of a federal investigation into the way Mr. Felner handled a $694,000 federal grant, Dr. Ramsey was still dismissing some faculty complaints and grievances as “anonymous crap.” And, just this week, board chairman J. Chester Porter pronounced himself “satisfied” with the way the administration handled faculty criticism and charges. He did this without serious investigation of the letter’s specifics and before a proposed Faculty Senate review produced any findings. All of which calls into question the university’s good faith in dealing with allegations that people and careers were being abused.

Baby steps, people. Baby steps.

Stories You May Have Missed This Week

We have way too much on our plate this afternoon, so we probably won’t update for a few hours. Sorry. We’ll be back in a bit so don’t burn the barn down.

In the meantime, check out these stories you may have missed this week:

  • White Washing Begins at the University of Louisville [Link]
  • Kentucky’s Delegation at the DNC Roll Call [Link]
  • Video Contest: Create Anti-McConnell Ad [Link]
  • The UofL-Felner Egg Is Finally Cracking [Link]
  • A Much-Awaited Inside Look at the Communication of Robert Felner, Jim Ramsey and Shirley Willihnganz – Or How to Make the University of Louisville Look As Bad As Possible [Link]
  • Kentuckians Still Hate George Dubya [Link]
  • Some Questions About the 8664-KYTC Snafu [Link]
  • What Sorta Music Do Fancy Bloggers Listen To? [Link]

White Washing Begins at the University of Louisville

The Courier-Journal’s latest update on the Robert Felner scandal at the University of Louisville reveals that the chairman of the Board of Trustees wrote a letter saying he is satisfied with the actions taken by the university’s leadership regarding faculty complaints and the Felner investigation.

Seriously. After all of the super-negative news coverage and after all the negative facts about dozens and dozens of grievances and complaints. After UofL President Jim Ramsey called them “anonymous crap” and never apologized. After we have repeatedly published information painting a less-than-stable situation among the university’s leadership team, that is what the chairman had to say.

And Nancy Rodriguez doesn’t even bother to use the hundreds of email messages we published that proves otherwise.

You can pretty much bet that nothing is changing within the unversity. So don’t hold your breath.

The chairman of the University of Louisville board of trustees sent a letter to the full board this week saying he is “satisfied” with actions taken by the school’s administration regarding faculty complaints and a federal investigation involving former education dean Robert Felner.

“We care about our employees — they are a source of our pride,” J. Chester Porter said in the letter. “We have worked with (U of L President) Jim (Ramsey) and (Provost) Shirley (Willihnganz) long enough to know they, too, care deeply about the welfare of all the University’s employees and students.”

-SNIP-

He then says that during Felner’s five-year tenure, Ramsey and Willihnganz “began to understand the tensions he created in the college” and notes it was the university’s investigation that “alerted the U.S. Attorney to investigate peculiarities” in the College of Education and Human Development.

What’s interesting, really, is that the chairman would attempt to whitewash the fact that Jim Ramsey and Provost Shirley Willihnganz were more than aware of Felner’s problems. We have published evidence that proves the two tried to cover it all up for several years.

And how many times can Nancy Rodgriguez perpetuate the outright lie that the Felner investigation centers around a $694,000 grant? It’s untrue and she knows it. She’s said so in several stories.

We’re not sure what’s up with her inability to get to the bottom of this story, but we’ll be publishing several of her Open Records Requests a bit later in an attempt to examine how the paper has approached this story.

Meanwhile, some Felner devotee wrote a letter to the C-J claiming that their coverage of the Felner scandal is perverted and anti-Semitic.

The Courier spent almost no time checking what good things Felner did at U of L and the other schools — he couldn’t have been 100 percent bad.

The letter writer, Lewis “Sonny” Bass, shows his ignorance of the situation by suggesting that Felner did good at UofL. We’re pretty darn sure he hasn’t read anything about the man and his time at the university.

Heaven help our University of Louisville and this sticky mess. Goodness.

The UofL-Felner Egg Is Finally Cracking

It never stops, does it? The crack is getting bigger and bigger.

And the truth is finally rolling out about Robert Felner and the corruption that existed and still exists at the University of Louisville. That corruption is apparently rampant.

Check out latest from Christopher Hall at LEO. Turns out Robert Felner was only responsible for about a million dollars in grants, not $40 million+ as he claims.

Just another example of the unbelievable amount of drama surrounding the former Dean of the College of Education and Human Development.

When Robert Felner arrived at the University of Louisville in 2003, he brought with him a reputation as a “rainmaker.” University administrators praised the former dean as a change agent, citing him as the driving force behind a spike in grant money at the school.

In fact, even after federal prosecutors began investigating Felner for possibly mishandling hundreds of thousands of dollars in grant money, university president James Ramsey repeatedly reminded critics that under the former dean’s leadership, the College of Education and Human Development saw “an increase in grants and contracts from $4.2 million … to more than $40 million.”

But a recent review of public records obtained by LEO Weekly reveals Felner is directly responsible for only a fraction of that windfall.

And that infamous Just Solutions report that UofL Provost Shirley Willihnganz refuses to pay for? Suspicious is the only word we can come up with.

The onslaught of grievances prompted outraged faculty members to call for a no-confidence vote in March 2006… Felner was not fired, and there’s no evidence he was even reprimanded.

Instead, the university hired a mediation firm, Just Solutions, to handle the matter. (The university, by the way, still owed the firm nearly $10,000 for its work related to Felner as of press deadline.)

-SNIP-

Several attempts to speak with Willihnganz — to find out what changes, if any, were made as a result of the Just Solutions meetings — were unsuccessful. Late last week, she did release this cryptic (and somewhat confusing) statement: “Much as we might like to, we haven’t issued statements about why we decided not to go forward with Just Solutions. Because this would involve discussion of personnel and mediation matters, we cannot discuss it. However, just because we can’t talk openly about it doesn’t mean we did nothing.”

Click here to read the rest…

But that’s not it. Check out Rick’s breakdown of the way UofL’s administration has handled (or mishandled) the press surrounding the Felner debacle. From a media perspective it’s absolutely embarrassing.

And don’t forget the dozens upon dozens of emails we published earlier today that detail the painful past five years at the University of Louisville.

A Much-Awaited Inside Look at the Communication of Robert Felner, Jim Ramsey and Shirley Willihnganz – Or How to Make the University of Louisville Look As Bad As Possible

We told you a few months ago that the federal investigation involving Robert Felner at the University of Louisville was going to get messy. And we never disappoint when we make a declaration like that.

Over the past month we have obtained hundreds of pages of email from the university and we’re bringing many of them to you today. Some are long and drawn out so we’ll try to offer the most basic of summarizations. And we’ll break things out into category and circumstance for easier consumption.

So have at it, folks. Read, consume, digest, regurgitate. If anyone in the traditional media wants to use these records, they’re yours for the taking if you properly source this website.

Read the juicy juicy of this unbelievable lengthy story and peep the dozens upon dozens of scandalous emails after the jump…

Read moreA Much-Awaited Inside Look at the Communication of Robert Felner, Jim Ramsey and Shirley Willihnganz – Or How to Make the University of Louisville Look As Bad As Possible

Some Questions About the 8664-KYTC Snafu

Why did a February 11th email from Wilbur Smith Associates to the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet point out that the organization “buried” the use of “8664” language?

From: Bostrom, Niels R. [rbostrom@wilbursmith.com]
Sent: Monday, February 11, 2008 11:59 AM
To: Thomson, Scott (KYTC)
Cc: Sorenson, Timothy P
Subject: Kennedy Interchange Area Study (Letter Agreement #2)
Hi’ Scott,

Thanks for the quick turn around on the paperwork associated with this study. I have changed the names of our scope and fee proposal to reflect the name: Kennedy Interchange Area Study along with the title and title blocks in the file contents. Please note that I retained the use of 8664 in the description of the actual scenario buried deeper in the description since that is vital to the understanding of the work.

Regards,

Rob Bostrom, PE
National Practice Leader for Travel Demand Modeling
Wilbur Smith Associates

And why would Wilbur Smith even bother retaining the 8664 language, albeit “buried,” if the study wasn’t all about the 8664 proposal, as the company claimed today?

8664 had claimed that the state had been studying its proposal. However, an official with engineering consultant Wilbur Smith Associates of Lexington said the analysis focused on two bridges, a redesigned Spaghetti Junction and turning Interstate 64 into a surface-level parkway downtown.

Who in their right mind believes Chuck Wolfe of the Transportation Cabinet when he spins about what went down yesterday?

“He’ll go ahead and have it done and we’ll see what it says,” Wolfe said.

8664 opposes a downtown bridge. It believes its plan would reconnect downtown to the Ohio River and lead to “enormous economic and quality of life benefits.”

Documents obtained by 8664 show that Wilbur Smith completed 93 percent of its work under a contract worth $49,922 before the state notified it to stop.

Why on earth would the Transportation Cabinet kill a project that was 93% complete? The only thing that remained at that point was getting a check cleared. What did the Transportation Cabinet have to hide?

Who really believes the study wasn’t complete eight days before the scheduled completion date? Language in the Feb 11th email above would lead anyone reading it to believe that the study was, in fact, complete and in the process of being edited.

Is it suspicious that the two men who pushed for the 8664 study would resign over something less than scandalous? Or are we reading between the lines a little too much? And if we’re reading a little too much between the lines, why did the Transportation Cabinet lie about Gilbert Newman’s statement?

So many questions, so much horse shiz to be shoveled.

Finally, Chuck Wolfe didn’t call us to freak out yesterday. KYTC must have been busy trying to come up with their spin? (Reference: He called within five minutes of a story we published about a month ago in a CYA attempt for KYTC.)