Copyright © 2017 Albuquerque Journal
Questions, and controversy, continue to mount about a 2015 golf junket to Scotland in which the University of New Mexico used public funds to pay for three employees and three private donors.
This week, it was revealed that UNM paid much of the expenses for the three private donors. The state Constitution’s anti-donation clause prohibits state entities from making gifts to private citizens.
UNM also hid the fact it paid for private donors by failing to release that information when it was requested by the Journal several weeks ago. The Journal asked for all travel records pertaining to UNM expenses for the trip. UNM’s 43-page response only included expense records for athletic director Paul Krebs, former men’s basketball coach Craig Neal and Lobo Club executive director Kole McKamey. Several of the pages were blacked out almost entirely.
When asked whether Krebs faced possible discipline, UNM spokeswoman Cinnamon Blair said that was being considered.
“(Acting UNM President Chaouki Abdallah) is reviewing a lot of things and will look at it in its totality to see if there is need for disciplinary action (against Krebs),” she said.
Now the fiasco has gone national with multiple news outlets picking up the story, journalists opining and even a former Lobo athlete taking to social media to express his displeasure, and distrust, of what’s going on.
“You guys should do some more digging. That’s just the tip of the ice berg…lol” former Major League Baseball player Jordan Pacheco, a La Cueva High and UNM graduate, wrote on Twitter in response to an article being posted on Deadspin.com.
It had already been reported three weeks ago that the golf trip, which included stays at two resorts and tee times at five historic Scotland courses, had included about $39,000 of public money spent for Krebs, Neal and McKamey (each had family members also attend but paid for those expenses privately).
The trip, Krebs said several weeks ago, was to strengthen relationships with donors, but UNM’s acting president said at that time it should have been paid for by the UNM Foundation, the school’s independent fundraising arm, and not with athletic department money.
On Monday, a KRQE-TV report revealed that Krebs had stepped forward to reveal public money was also used to pay for the trips of at least three boosters, pushing the total tab for UNM to $65,000 in public funds and also calling into question whether the junket was a violation of the state Constitution’s anti-donation clause.
“In reviewing notes from the trip, we discovered internally that the outings for three donors were paid for via UNM athletics,” Krebs said in a statement emailed to the Journal on Tuesday. “The original plan was for UNM to not pay for any donors, but due to some late cancellations because of unforeseen circumstances, we had three golf trips that were paid for but would have been unused.”
That information should have been released when UNM responded to an April 17 Inspection of Public Records Act request submitted by the Journal. The multi-faceted request sought “documents showing the travel, lodging and other costs associated with (the Scotland trip) paid for by UNM.”
UNM failed to respond Tuesday to Journal questions on why it failed to fulfill the IPRA request in apparent violation of state law.
UNM had notified the Journal it fulfilled the request, but left out or redacted any mention of expenses tied to anyone but Krebs, Neal and McKamey. Among the parts that were provided were heavily redacted credit transaction logs and an athletics department Bank of America Card statement that shows just three golf packages paid for.
“While it is two years after the fact, it is a situation that has to be corrected, regardless of the date or timeframe,” Krebs added in his statement Tuesday. “With that, an anonymous donor has given a $25,000 undesignated gift to be used to pay back the public money that was used for this trip.”
That “gift” does not change the original action of using the public money. The KRQE report said UNM received the $25,000 donation last week, more than two years after the trip. Krebs was out of town and declined to provide any other information beyond his statement.
When asked to respond to numerous rumors that he is considering retiring this summer, Krebs said in an email, “If and when I decide to retire from athletics, it will be announced on my time table.”
A spokesman for New Mexico Attorney General Hector Balderas declined to say whether it was looking into whether there were any criminal violations. He said the office “is always concerned about public funds being spent appropriately” but by policy would “neither confirm nor deny an existence of an investigation” into the matter.
The 2015 trip was contracted through Anthony Travel for 24 golfers, but only 13, including the UNM employees, signed up. The penalty UNM paid for not reaching 24 was $13,000 and would have been much higher if there weren’t at least 16 golfers.
Several boosters and family members paid their own way. But in order to reach the 16-golfer quota, UNM invited local businessmen and Lobo Club mainstays Paul Gibson, Darin Davis and Raleigh Gardenhire, and picked up their tab.
Krebs in his statement said, “the original plan was to have this reimbursed back, but in reviewing documents it was noticed that this didn’t happen.”
It is unclear if they were ever asked to reimburse UNM. Emails left with Gibson and Davis on Tuesday were not responded to. Gardenhire was not reached for comment.
Krebs has maintained the trip was a success and generated plenty of revenue, though has yet to disclose how much was raised as a result. He has told other media outlets he estimates that at around $230,000 was generated, but declined to give the Journal an estimate.
“The relationships were strengthened, and I do believe we brought in new money as a result of that trip,” Krebs said in an interview with the Journal on April 30. “… I would argue there was a return on the investment on this trip.”
Journal staff writer Jessica Dyer contributed to this report.