New Mexico Attorney General Hector Balderas on Tuesday sent a letter to University of New Mexico interim President Chaouki Abdallah requesting records regarding recent revelations of uncollected payments for suites in the Pit.
UNM on Monday revealed there was $432,000 in uncollected money for use of 24 suites in the Pit dating back to the 2010-11 season.
The Journal obtained a copy of the attorney general’s letter Tuesday afternoon. In it, Balderas says:
“Public educational institutions such as the University of New Mexico (“UNM”) must be accountable and responsible in ensuring that amounts due are collected in a timely, efficient, and complete manner. I was concerned to learn that the UNM may have failed to collect hundreds of thousands of dollars in connection with suites at the University Arena (“the Pit”), with some unpaid accounts dating back as far as the 2010-2011 basketball season.”
Saying his job is to “ensure that public entities are accountable to the taxpayers,” Balderas asked for the following information from Abdallah:
• All contracts and any other agreements with suite holders from the 2010-2011 season until the present.
• All invoices sent to suite holders during the same time period.
• Any records related to the uses of revenue from suites, including any pledges to debt service or other obligations.
• Any other documents that will assist the Office of the Attorney General in its review.
Abdallah has made it clear he will ensure full cooperation in two ongoing investigations, both from the offices of Balderas and State Auditor Tim Keller.
“My office has received a letter from the Attorney General requesting copies of agreements, invoices and other records related to the purchase and use of the suites,” Abdallah said in an email sent to the Journal. “Of course, we intend to comply quickly and completely with his request, and will continue to cooperate fully with his review of UNM Athletics.”
The suites in the Pit are marketed and sold by the Lobo Club, the fundraising arm of UNM athletics. It is still unclear why fees for some suites went uncollected for so long.
Executive Director Kole McKamey told the Journal on Monday night in an email: “This is largely due to a great deal of turnover. I can’t speak to anything before my time, but as of January 2016, when I took over as Executive Director, we have attempted to collect past delinquent accounts.”
The Journal last week issued an Inspection of Public Records Act request for the same documents the AG’s office has now requested and is awaiting a response.
The Lobo Club is under the umbrella of the UNM Foundation, the university’s fundraising unit that claims it is independent of the university and not subject to the same open records laws the university is as a public entity. The Foundation has told the Journal previously it would not provide any information that included donor names or amounts donated and wasn’t required to do so by law.
Interim athletic director Janice Ruggiero on Monday said two donors have recently paid their past due amounts, and the total still owed is $388,000.
She said she was only recently made aware of the matter through journalists’ IPRA requests and an ongoing special audit of the athletics department being conducted by state auditor Tim Keller’s office.
Both the AG’s Office and state Auditor are looking into UNM and the Lobo Club’s finances in the wake of a 2015 Scotland trip in which UNM paid about $25,000 of boosters’ expenses.
In April, former athletic director Paul Krebs raised the issue of delinquent accounts in an email.
Watchdog website NMFishBowl.com reported in May about an email it obtained from Krebs to McKamey and two other Lobo Club employees asking them to start collecting past due money from suite holders who had not paid.
“I want a concerted effort to collect all past due money for suites and club seats from previous years,” Krebs wrote in the email. “Have we taken anyone to collections?”
Krebs announced his retirement June 1 (effective June 30) after both the state auditor and attorney general had launched their investigations.
Krebs said he did not want to become a distraction to the department and retired after 11 years.