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Former Lobo hoops staffer files EEOC charge of discrimination

Cody Hopkins, former director of basketball operations for UNM.

Cody Hopkins, former director of basketball operations for UNM.

The former Lobo men’s basketball operations director accused by UNM of embezzling more than $63,000 from the school in 2015 is starting to fire back.

Cody Hopkins, the 34-year-old former basketball operations director UNM says illegally used a team purchasing card, including using it for nearly $54,000 in ATM cash withdrawals between July and December 2015, says his contract not being renewed and UNM’s handling of the matter has violated his rights. Hopkins has not been charged with a crime.

The Journal this week obtained a copy an Equal Employment Opportunity Commission “charge of discrimination” filed by Hopkins alleging retaliation.

It does not address the allegations of missing money from UNM.

“I believe I have been discriminated against and terminated in retaliation because of my disability in the violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990,” he wrote in the complaint dated Sept. 26.

Reached by the Journal on Tuesday, Hopkins said: “As I have felt all along, I do not believe that it is appropriate to comment publicly on this matter. Please direct any inquiries to my attorneys. Thank you.”

A message left with Elizabeth L. Higginbotham, his Texas-based attorney handling this matter, but not his potential criminal case, was not returned.

Athletic director Paul Krebs referred all questions to UNM’s attorneys.

“UNM is in the process of preparing its response to the administrative complaint filed by Mr. Hopkins and we will not comment at this time,” UNM spokeswoman Cinnamon Blair told the Journal .

Hopkins claims UNM never properly trained him for handling the finances of the multimillion dollar men’s basketball operation, knew of his drinking problem and was even once sent home from work by head coach Craig Neal because of it in September 2015.

On Dec. 7, Hopkins says he informed Neal he “had to get treatment for my addictions and other disabilities” and would be entering an inpatient treatment facility. Hopkins’ claim states Neal told him that, with Krebs knowledge, they “would support me 100 percent” in getting treatment and he even filed paperwork through the human resources department to get the treatment as part of the Family Medical Leave Act.

But while in the treatment facility, UNM released a statement to the media that Hopkins was placed on leave and being investigated for misuse of university funds.

“When I got out of treatment on January 8, 2016, I found out from a co-worker that I was being set up as an ‘individual gone rogue’ and that I was collateral damage,” he wrote in the EEOC complaint. He was later told his contract would not be renewed and also says UNM released medical information to the media.

In May, Krebs told the Journal, “This is an isolated act of one individual. … Cody was immediately placed on leave of absence when it was discovered it was more than just somebody who was (behind on bookkeeping).”

Since Hopkins was placed on leave, three UNM athletics employees have been disciplined for roles in not identifying or stopping the misuse, though UNM says none of their actions were criminal.

A 39-page audit report released in May focused on transactions only from July-December 2015 noted athletics was aware Hopkins withdrew nearly $40,000 in cash the previous fiscal year and that didn’t result in his “P-card” use being restricted.

UNM athletics has acknowledged to the Journal that Hopkins met regularly with supervisors in athletics, though not in the basketball office, in the months before his leave. It also has said his use of the “P-card” was discussed in those meetings. Those supervisors, though apparently aware of his being behind on reconciling the card transactions, never tried restricting his use of the card or felt it necessary to stop him from using it as he had been for months.

It was not until his Dec. 7 meeting with Neal that the use of the card in his name was stopped.

Albuquerque-based attorney Paul Kennedy continues to represent Hopkins on any potential criminal case that arises from the matter. The district attorney’s office reiterated to the Journal on Tuesday that the case is still being reviewed and no determination has been made if it has the evidence needed to present it to a grand jury for possible indictment.

The UNM police report given to the DA’s Office references an unsigned, undated confession letter Hopkins reportedly gave to Neal in December. But UNM now says the police report is wrong in its account of who knew about that letter and when. And, despite a several-month investigation into why and how the money had gone missing, auditors were never told of the letter and it wasn’t referenced in the audit report.

The letter, UNM has since said, had been placed in Hopkins personnel file and forgotten about while the audit was being conducted.

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