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Veil lifted — eventually — on UNM Scotland golf trip info

Earlier this month, the University of New Mexico released the rest of the documents the Journal sought in April regarding a 2015 fundraising golf trip to Scotland.

It also re-released, this time unredacted, many documents that were a part of the original April request, but at that time had information covered up that had been specifically requested. The redacted information would have confirmed in April that UNM used public funds to pay for boosters to attend the trip — information UNM didn’t disclose until the middle of May.

UNM has not commented on who decided to redact and withhold the information when the Journal requested it in April or if anyone will be disciplined for doing so.

Details of that six-night international golfing junket, including both the source of the spending and initial lack of transparency, has sparked public criticism, a special state audit into UNM’s athletic department and Lobo Club fundraising efforts, an attorney general’s investigation into the trip and whether UNM violated the state public records act. Also, it likely played a role in athletic director Paul Krebs’ decision to retire, which he made known on June 1.

“I think when you look at the distractions that have occurred recently, I wanted to do what’s in the best interest of the university,” Krebs told the Journal on June 2, the day his decision to retire went public. “I don’t want to be a distraction. I want to see this place succeed and be successful and continue to grow.”

The same page of a UNM athletics transaction log released to the Journal as part of an Inspection of Public Records Act request. The top version was released in April and was one of many pages with redacted information showing UNM paid for boosters to attend a 2015 golf junket in Scotland. The bottom version is the same page, unredacted, released in late May. (Geoff Grammer/Journal)

When news of the golf junket first broke in early May — on KRQE-TV and in articles in the Journal — Krebs said UNM paid about $39,000 for the trip. That included six nights and rounds of golf on five historic Scotland courses for himself, former men’s basketball coach Craig Neal and Lobo Club Executive Director Kole McKamey and penalty fees for not having the contractually agreed upon number of golfers (24) for the trip.

An Inspection of Public Records Act (IPRA) request filed by the Journal on April 13 asked UNM for documentation on everything the school paid for on the trip. Specifically, the request read: “Documents showing the travel, lodging and other costs associated with a trip to Scotland paid for by UNM in the summer of (2015).” The Journal also requested a list of everyone on the trip.

On April 28, a UNM athletic department spokesman gave the Journal 43 pages of documents, many of which were heavily redacted. Within minutes, the Journal emailed back to indicate the entire request was not fulfilled as requested.

The 43-page document indicated that UNM paid for three golf packages, as Krebs said publicly. It showed no proof that UNM paid for Krebs’ transportation and also didn’t include a travel party list the Journal requested.

Three weeks later, UNM announced that the total cost was actually $64,000, and that $25,000 of it was public funds used by UNM to pay for the golfing packages of three boosters, which would violate the state Constitution’s anti-donation clause.

About 10 days after that, UNM released a second round of documents to the Journal. They support UNM’s new story — there are records of six golf packages paid for by UNM, including the three for the boosters. The records name the three boosters. They also show UNM paid for Krebs’ flight, which he said from the beginning but had not initially provided requested documentation showing it.

UNM said it did not have a list of names of people on the trip and wasn’t required to create a document to fulfill the IPRA request. But UNM does have the names of all those on the trip, as it was all booked through Anthony Travel as part of a contract UNM signed with the Indiana-based travel agency. UNM has yet to provide a full explanation of why it couldn’t provide those names or documents showing those bookings.

State law requires public agencies to cite portions of the Information of Public Records Act that allowed it to redact or withhold public documents being requested. UNM did not do so on the information released to the Journal on April 28.

A bit of confusion?

It was on May 22 that Krebs released a statement acknowledging a further review of his notes showed that the outings for three donors “were paid for via UNM athletics.”

In the wake of that development, news of both the special audit and AG’s investigation broke. Attorney General Hector Balderas questioned, among other things, why public records were not released. UNM soon after agreed to reopen the Journal’s IPRA request.

On May 31, UNM records custodian John Rodriguez released a more complete set of documents to the Journal. He explained that the Journal was initially given documents based on an IPRA request made by another media outlet (confirmed by other sources to be KRQE), which had not asked for the same or as much information as the Journal.

Rodriguez, who was out of the office at the time UNM athletics initially responded to the Journal’s request on April 28, admits it should not have redacted that information. He said he was under the impression the Journal’s request had been satisfied by the athletics department while he was away from the office.

On May 31, Rodriguez released to the Journal 52 pages — nine more than originally released. On numerous duplicate pages from the first request, black marks were removed where UNM athletics had initially covered up transaction information on the department’s credit card.

The new released documents show the names of the boosters for whose trips UNM paid — Paul Gibson, Darin Davis and Raleigh Gardenhire — as well as several additional pages of transactions on the athletics department credit card that were either covered up or withheld altogether in April.

UNM has not said who in athletics made the decision on what to redact and release, but the original documents were emailed to the Journal by assistant athletic director Frank Mercogliano.

Both Krebs and the president’s office declined to answer the Journal’s inquiry about whether the boosters were told the trip was a gift or if they were expected to reimburse the university.

“Out of respect for letting the State Auditor’s office complete its process, we don’t think it’s appropriate to comment at this time,” UNM spokeswoman Cinnamon Blair wrote.

Krebs has continued to defend the trip, saying the decisions were made in the best interests of the university. He also said that the individuals on the trip — either through personal donation, corporate donations or corporate sponsorships — through the years have contributed more than $10 million to the university.

“You don’t generate those kinds of funds without engaging people and stewarding them. This was the kind of trip that is very common in college athletics,” he said

Krebs, who is on payroll through June 30 but is using vacation time until then, plans to remain in Albuquerque and has said he will cooperate fully with any investigations.

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