Attorney general: UNM has disturbing pattern of concealment

Copyright © 2018 Albuquerque Journal

Hector Balderas

University of New Mexico former Athletics Director Paul Krebs acknowledged misleading UNM’s leadership and donors, as well as newspaper reporters, about a 2015 golf fundraising trip to Scotland, according to a newly released batch of emails.

He also on multiple occasions tried to thwart the state’s public records law, the emails show.

Although Krebs retired from the state’s largest university amid scandal more than a year ago, he looms large in a UNM “transparency report” issued Thursday by the state Attorney General’s Office.

The 32-page report outlines what it calls a “disturbing pattern of concealment and deliberate misrepresentation” at UNM, and includes more than 20 pages of Krebs’ emails and a three-year rundown of transparency complaints filed with the AG.

In an email, UNM President Garnett Stokes, who was not yet hired when the investigation began, said: “I have emphatically expressed my willingness to work with the AG’s office to ensure that UNM is transparent, cooperative and in compliance with the law. New Mexicans deserve that from the state’s flagship institution.”

The report comes about 15 months into Attorney General Hector Balderas’ wide-ranging financial investigation into the institution.

Balderas has not concluded the criminal investigation – and he said last month that there is no timetable for its completion – but the new report focuses on what it calls “specific instances regarding a lack of transparency” identified during the probe and through the complaints.

The AG’s Office has investigated 11 complaints about UNM’s compliance with the state’s Open Meetings Act and Inspection of Public Records Act since 2015, according to the report.

In conjunction with the criminal investigation, they “form the basis for the conclusion that UNM has failed to ensure that the citizens of New Mexico are given the greatest possible information regarding the affairs of government and the official acts” of public officers and employees.

The report, authored by Assistant Attorney General Dylan Lange, said UNM does not have adequate internal processes for complying with the state’s public records law.

Although the document details the AG’s determinations and recommendations in individual cases, the report itself does not give UNM any overarching direction.

Asked what the AG’s Office expected from UNM in light of the report, spokesman David Carl said in a written statement: “UNM needs to do some soul searching. The lack of transparency has negatively impacted its financial operations and continues to be a black eye for students and our community.”

UNM spokesman Dan Jiron said the university takes the matter seriously and understands it can only fully serve its mission if it has the public’s trust.

Stokes said, “We seek to immediately correct errors and omissions, and improve on current processes and policies. We are also absolutely committed to adhering to state law.”

Krebs’ emails dominate the AG’s report.

In one, he writes he “was not forthcoming with the press” regarding the 2015 Scotland golf trip fundraiser for which UNM used about $25,000 in public funds to pay the expenses of private donors. In others, he directs staff to delete emails and other documents.

The Scotland revelations triggered Balderas in May 2017 to launch his investigation, though the scope has broadened to include many other UNM matters.

Krebs retired shortly after details of the Scotland trip became public.

The Journal had requested Krebs’ emails included in the AG’s report, but several were not released after UNM’s legal counsel allowed Krebs’ personal attorney to first go through and remove some of them before fulfilling the public records request.

A message seeking comment from Krebs and his attorney, former UNM Regent Gene Gallegos, was not answered on Thursday.

In an email from May 2017, Krebs wrote about misleading UNM administration and donors, and the media, about public money used on the Scotland trip and how he was now contemplating retirement:

“I was so disgusted by the negativity and the pressure had gotten to me and I thought no one would find out. Wrong move. … I am tired and worn out by the negativity. Don’t want my career tarnished but want to do what is right. And there are spies from within providing info to media and bloggers.”

In a July 26, 2017, email from his UNM account – which he was still allowed to use after retirement, as are all UNM retirees – to the UNM email account of his wife, who still works there, Krebs asks her to print and deliver an anonymous letter to the University of New Mexico Foundation explaining a $25,000 donation made to UNM.

Krebs had publicly announced two months earlier that an anonymous donor had given UNM $25,000 to help pay the university back for the public money used for the Scotland trip.

He directs his wife to give the letter – signed simply “The Donor” – to UNM Foundation executive Larry Ryan.

Krebs writes: “Letter is anonymous. Should be no name, return address or anything associated with us on the letter or envelope. Should not be traceable if public. Larry is expecting this.”

Marjori Krebs answers that she can make the delivery, to which Paul Krebs responds, “No trace to us. Larry expecting. Delete everything I sent when done so nothing is discoverable in (public records) request. Including from your delete file. Thanks.”

Between May 25, 2017, and July 27, 2017, the Journal sent four emails to UNM or the UNM Foundation requesting a copy of the check and proof “The Donor” asked that it specifically be used to cover the portion of public money used for the Scotland trip. UNM never complied with the Journal’s written requests.

The AG’s report also highlights four Open Meetings Act complaints made against various UNM bodies, including the well-publicized allegation that the Board of Regents violated state law with a nonspecific agenda for a July 19 meeting at which it initially voted to cut several sports programs.

After the AG issued an opinion that the board had violated the law, regents ultimately repeated the meeting.

The report also addresses seven complaints regarding UNM’s compliance with the Inspection of Public Records Act.

In three cases, the AG’s Office reported that UNM violated the law by issuing a denial letter after the 15-day response window. In another, it said UNM’s policy of charging 35 cents per page for electronic document transmission exceeds what the law allows, and directed the university to re-evaluate its fees and charge only the “actual costs for transmitting or downloading the electronic records.”

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