Is This a Look Inside Robert Felner’s Circle?

Everywhere you turn these days there’s a story about Robert Felner, the now-infamous former Dean of the College of Education and Human Development at the University of Louisville. The federal investigation surrounding Felner’s shady dealings and decades-long tenure of questionable behavior at various institutions has rocked the world of higher education.

Throughout the past three months we have written nearly 80 stories about the ordeal and many thousands of comments have been left on this website from those who are in-the-know. We have learned all kinds of interesting information about Felner and his past. And we have uncovered potential scandal at the highest levels of the University’s administration.

But the question lingering in the minds of many we speak with on a regular basis at UofL is, “What’s the deal with Felner’s girlfriends and how do they play into all of this?” A good question, indeed.

Many current and former faculty members within the College of Education and Human Development have reported that Felner had several girlfriends and younger women he was close with– people he’d brought into the CEHD. One of those individuals is Natalie Siglitz, director of the Office of Civic Education and Engagement at CEHD.

There’s tons of speculation about Stiglitz and her relationship with Felner. And after filing an open records request at UofL for Stiglitz’s University-paid telephone records, we’re left with nothing but burning questions and healthy suspense.

Read the juicy details of communication involving Sheldon Berman, the Governor’s office and Felner’s attorney after the jump…

Read moreIs This a Look Inside Robert Felner’s Circle?

Point of Interest in the Lawson Indictment

Page 11, #5 of the 22-page indictment.

Check this out:

On or about March 7, 2008, LEONARD V. LAWSON spoke by phone from Florida with James Rummage in Lexington. Among other things, LEONARD V. LAWSON told James Rummage that he shouldn’t worry about the investigation into leaking engineer estimates because (1) he and CHARLES WILLIAM “BILL” NIGHBERT had “covered everything that you said;” (2) that LEONARD V. LAWSON has talked to the Governor about the mistreatment of James Rummage; (3) that the Governor said it was going to stop; (4) that “Youve said what you said and that’s all you need to say;” and (5) that “There’s a lot of people that I know you — a lot of people would dream up stuff to say if they could help you.”

Thoughts?

BREAKING – Leonard Lawson Indicted in Lexington

Just heard it on WHAS11.

Will link ASAP.

UPDATE @ 12:22:

Tom Loftus has a story up, no real details yet:

LEXINGTON, Ky. — A federal grand jury today indicted road contractor Leonard Lawson, former Transportation Secretary Bill Nighbert and Brian Russell Billings, an employee of a Lawson company.

Details of the federal investigation into possible bid tampering were laid out in an affidavit by an FBI agent filed in federal court in London last month.

Special Agent T. Clay Mason said in the affidavit that James Rummage, a former Department of Highways engineer, leaked cost estimates of about eight projects to Lawson. The affidavit said Rummage did so at the direction of Nighbert.

UPDATE @ 1:25:

PolWatchers as the 22-page indictment:

A special federal grand jury on Wednesday indicted former state Transportation Secretary Bill Nighbert, politically influential road contractor Leonard Lawson and Lawson employee Brian Russell Billings for conspiracy theft from the government and obstruction of justice related to their allegedly rigging bids for road work in the Transportation Cabinet.

-SNIP-

According to the indictment, Lawson, 69, and Nighbert, 57, engaged in a two-year conspiracy to give Lawson’s companies access to confidential cabinet bid estimates. That allowed Lawson to avoid the competitive bidding process by submitting bids at the high end of what the cabinet considered the acceptable price range. Lawson’s projects ended up being worth about $130 million.

According to the indictment, on eight occasions in 2006 and 2007, Nighbert and/or Lawson told cabinet official James Rummage to get the bid estimates — prepared by cabinet engineers — on projects that Lawson wanted. Rummage delivered the estimates to Lawson’s home or office in Lexington five times. The other times, he gave them to Nighbert, who passed them along to Lawson.

Nighbert tried to conceal his favors for Lawson by asking Rummage to also retrieve estimates on unrelated projects as “camouflage,” according to the indictment.

Wow. The KYTC kingdom is slowly crumbling.

UPDATE @ 2:02:

Governor Beshear just provided this statement about the indictments:

“For too long, the important work of the Transportation Cabinet – and of its thousands of conscientious employees – has been tainted by misguided leadership and a culture of cronyism and corruption.

Eliminating this culture, a culture we inherited, has been one of our chief goals – and biggest challenges.

We welcome and have cooperated fully with this federal investigation into the previous administration, recognizing its potential for helping us scrub clean this cabinet.”

Robert Felner a Change Agent? Clown? Criminal?

In this week’s LEO, Christopher Hall questions whether or not Robert Felner was a change agent, class clown or criminal. And he tells the story of the now-ironic University of Louisville search that brought Felner to the river city.

Did the University of Louisville vet Robert Felner? Did anyone within the administration bother to check his references or speak with former employers? Obviously not. And the record shows that Jim Ramsey never bothered to dig into his past.

It is becoming more and more clear by the day that the legislature and other state officials will need to step in at UofL in order to clean this mess up.

Former U of L dean accused of throwing spitballs and belittling colleagues, not to mention mishandling federal grants

The University of Louisville posted a nationwide job search in 2003, looking to find a new dean to oversee the College of Education and Human Development. The man they found for the job: Robert Felner.

Given Felner would eventually become the subject of dozens of grievances during his tenure at Louisville — not to mention the target of a federal investigation — a few requirements listed in the job ad now seem more than a little ironic: a record of successful interaction with faculty, staff and students; strong interpersonal, organizational and communication skills, and the ability to work effectively with internal and external constituents; a high standard of professional integrity and a strong sense of professional ethics.

-SNIP-

Even before arriving at U of L, Felner’s record of academic administration was spotty at best, having been removed outright from one leadership position at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and having had his departure from another leadership position at Auburn University met with relief.

Yet Ramsey and other administrators continue to defend their actions. In a recent letter to faculty and university trustees, Ramsey asserts that Felner’s “references were very good” (never mind the fact that Felner’s former boss in Illinois, Emanuel Donchin, says U of L never contacted him regarding their prospective new hire).

Click here to read the rest…

21 Former Faculty Send Letter to Board of Trustees

In what could only be considered an explosive development, twenty-one former University of Louisville faculty members who served under infamous Dean Robert Felner have penned a letter to the UofL Board of Trustees. The letter, which is in response to perceived inaction and mismanagement by President Jim Ramsey and Provost Shirley Willihnganz, addresses a number of issues that have not been appropriately addressed by the University.

If anyone had any doubt at all about the validity of claims made by commentators on this website, read the letter. Your eyes will be opened and you’ll quickly come to recognize the severity of complaints raised within.

For your convenience, we’re providing the text of the letter in its entirety below.

August 22, 2008

To: University of Louisville Board of Trustees

From: Twenty-one former UofL faculty members who served under Robert Felner

Re: “The Felner Affair” in the College of Education and Human Development (CEHD)

We write this letter to the Board of Trustees of the University of Louisville in response to what is being referred to in newspaper, TV, and blogosphere reports in Kentucky and elsewhere as “The Felner Affair.” We are former UofL CEHD faculty members who served under Dean Robert Felner. Some of us left UofL in part because of Dean Felner’s abusive and unethical behavior.

We take issue with President Ramsey’s assertion in news reports about the “Felner Affair” that input from faculty to the higher administration was nothing more than “anonymous crap.” We would like to set the record straight by presenting the facts.

Setting aside alleged misconduct currently under federal investigation, Robert Felner’s actions included the following: He –-

  • brushed aside repeated queries by faculty about his excessive and questionable expenditures;
  • created a hostile workplace, which included influencing voting;
  • publicly humiliated people, screamed at them, spread falsehoods about them;
  • professionally undermined those who dared to oppose him;
  • made inappropriate personal advances;
  • made a mockery of accepted collegial governance policies;
  • violated principles governing the hiring of new faculty and the promotion of other faculty;
  • showered resources on those who supported him;
  • denied resources to those who stood up and questioned him, and threatened them with dire consequences;
  • hired an excessively large number of administrators, many of whom inflicted cruel and unfair sanctions on faculty not in Felner’s favor; and
  • cultivated inappropriate relationships with female employees, giving some questionably qualified persons extreme salaries.

Read the rest of the letter after the jump…

Read more21 Former Faculty Send Letter to Board of Trustees

More Stuff For Your Saturday Morning

It’s like Anna Nicole and her elderly husband [Wonkette]

Sarah Palin Facts [PalinFacts.com]

GILF graduates to VPILF [VPILF]

Sarah Palin once rode a diney-sore [Barefoot & Progressive]

No, Republicans, Sarah Palin is not “gay-friendly” or whatever it is you’re calling her. [DailyKos]

Paul Begala has it right about John McCain and Sarah Palin [CNN]

Sorry, but, uh… Jennifer Moore and the KDP had jack shit to do with Heather Ryan winning the endorsement of the Progressive Patriot Fund. It’s a flat out fraud and lie to suggest that Jennifer or the KDP had anything to do with it. Heather won it on her own accord, thanks to her own promotion and her own dedication. [How Embarrassing]

Whattya know… Nancy Rodriguez does a story about the various emails exchanged between Robert Felner, Shirley Willihnganz and Jim Ramsey. Interesting. We hope she really filed open records requests for those emails and didn’t just yank them from this site without attribution. [C-J]

A Look at the Mainstream Behind the Scenes

Many have written in to ask us what goes on behind the scenes with the Courier-Journal and other news outlets in the open records request process. And even more want to know what exactly the former paper of record has done so far in the research process/what they plan to do in the future with the Robert Felner story.

So we thought it’d be interesting to take a look at a few of the ORRs filed by the C-J in the recent past. It sheds light on previous coverage and may give you a glimpse of what the paper plans to do in the future on the Felner story.

07/23/2008 – Chris Kenning requested a copy of the federal search warrant –

“I am seeking a copy of the original search warrant used by the feds to search the CEHD.”

07/29/2008 – Andrew Wolfson requests copies of the Felner emails –

“I was trying to see if you could send me copies of the most recent emails released in the Felner matter. (WHAS last night mentioned there were 15 of them, but only put eight on it’s Web site.)

Never mind that we published them minutes after the WHAS story aired.

Read the rest after the jump…

Read moreA Look at the Mainstream Behind the Scenes