The state Auditor’s Office is reviewing the spending of public money by the University of New Mexico’s athletic department on a 2015 golf trip to Scotland that included the athletic director, other employees and boosters, the agency confirmed Wednesday.
The review comes as the state’s universities and colleges are being forced to consider tuition increases and other cuts as New Mexico grapples with a budget crisis.
Athletic director Paul Krebs is drawing criticism as more details about the international junket emerge following a series of public records requests filed by journalists, some of which netted documents with large swaths of information that had been blacked out.
Krebs has said the $65,000 trip was meant to strengthen relationships with donors, but critics argue that it should have been paid for by the university’s independent fundraising arm, not with athletic department money.
KRQE TV reported this week that Krebs revealed to the university’s acting president that public money was used to pay for the trips of at least three boosters.
The university told the Journal that possible discipline against Krebs was being considered.
President Chaouki Abdallah said Wednesday he’s looking forward to a timely process and that UNM will cooperate fully with the auditor’s review.
Athletics spokesman Frank Mercogliano said the department and Krebs, who was out of town and unavailable for comment Wednesday, would cooperate with the review.
The spending on the golf trip by UNM has raised questions about possible violations of the state Constitution’s anti-donation clause, which prohibits state entities from making gifts to private citizens.
Justine Freeman, a spokeswoman with Auditor Tim Keller’s office, said the findings of the review will be made public once the investigators’ work is complete.
It was not immediately clear how long the review will take. The auditor’s office has been looking into the matter for at least three weeks.
Records show the golf trip cost about $39,000 for Krebs, former men’s basketball coach Craig Neal and Lobo Club executive director Kole McKamey, but the university did not reveal what it paid for the private donors to attend the trip and initially recorded the trip as a basketball tournament in Ireland.
Abdallah told the television station that Krebs came to him and acknowledged that UNM picked up the tab for the boosters. He described it as a serious omission.
“This is not where university funds should be spent,” he said. “I want the public to know that in the future we will not be using university funds for such activities.”
Krebs said in a statement that UNM had not planned to pay for the donors’ trips in 2015 and that the situation “has to be corrected.” He acknowledged that the original plan was to be reimbursed for the travel costs but that a review of documents showed that never happened.
“The public and our fans put their trust in us, and the only way to keep that trust is to admit when an error is made, to rectify it, and to make sure that it doesn’t happen again,” he said.