Sunday, November 9, 2003

UofL asks donors about anonymity

The Associated Press

LOUISVILLE - The University of Louisville Foundation is asking donors if they want to remain anonymous, weeks after a judge ordered the foundation to disclose the names of more than 45,000 donors.

U of L president James Ramsey, in an Oct. 30 letter, wrote that the foundation believes donors "have the right to maintain the confidentiality" and that they should "consider deliberately whether you would like your contribution to the foundation to be or to remain anonymous."

In September, Jefferson Circuit Judge Steve Mershon ruled in a lawsuit brought by the Courier-Journal that the foundation had to release the names of more than 45,000 donors and the amounts they gave, saying the donors didn't specifically request that their names not be disclosed.

However, Mershon also said the foundation could keep private the names of 62 donors who requested anonymity.

Ramsey's letter went to donors who have given $1,000 or more to the university.

"At the original time that people had donated I think we would have represented to them, had they asked, that it was our policy to keep all donor records confidential so someone may have provided a donation with that understanding," he said.

Mershon's ruling followed a July 2002 ruling that the foundation was a public agency, that it should release the names of corporate and foundation donors and of individuals whose donations have already been made public, and the amounts they gave.

A Kentucky Court of Appeals panel has heard arguments on a foundation appeal of the July 2002 ruling, and a decision could be issued any day.

The foundation also has appealed Mershon's recent order, and the newspaper has appealed the judge's decision that the foundation can withhold the names of 62 donors who specifically asked for anonymity.

Those appeals are not yet under consideration by the appeals panel.

R. Kenyon Meyer, a lawyer for the newspaper, questioned whether Ramsey's letter was an effort to sidestep Mershon's order.

"The judge has ordered the release of those 45,000 names," Meyer said.

"If this is an effort to undo that order, I don't think the foundation can do that. I don't think they can retroactively impose anonymity on donations where no request has been made."

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