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UNM president questions funding of Scotland golf trip

Copyright © 2017 Albuquerque Journal

University of New Mexico Acting President Chaouki Abdallah said Monday that the UNM athletics department should not have paid any of the $39,000 it says it spent on a 2015 fund-raising golf trip to Scotland.

He said the purpose of the trip makes clear that the UNM Foundation should have covered the expenses paid by UNM, which included air fare, six nights lodging and five rounds of golf for athletic director Paul Krebs, golf and lodging for then-men’s basketball coach Craig Neal and golf and lodging for Lobo Club director Kole McKamey.

“The (UNM) Foundation should have paid for it,” said Abdallah. “… This was a fund-raising trip so the question is really from where — what source — should the trip have been paid. The foundation is the appropriate source of funds to be used for fund-raising efforts such as this trip.”

The UNM Foundation essentially serves as the fund-raising arm to the university but claims it is independent of the university.

The university is facing severe budget problems — and the athletics department has experienced shortfalls seven of the last nine years. The trip was paid for in one of the two fiscal years that did not post a deficit.

Krebs told the Journal on Sunday the trip was a “calculated risk” aimed at cultivating relationships with donors to the department at a time when it was clear public subsidies were dwindling and securing private donations was more important than ever. It was a trip advertised to donors and not kept secret.  Krebs even himself posted a photo of himself and his son on the trip.

But the university has declined to say who was on the trip, how many were donors or how much money was secured as a result of the trip.

Members of both Kreb’s and Neal’s families were among the roughly 23 travelers on the trip.

UNM provided the Journal last week personal credit card statements from Neal and Krebs showing they paid for their family members’ portions of the trip.

The foundation on Monday asked the Journal to correct an article published that morning that referred to McKamey as an athletics department employee. McKamey is listed on the athletics department staff directory, carries the title “Sr. Associate Athletic Director” and has a staff bio that mentions he worked with the New Mexico Lobos, not the UNM Foundation.

The Journal asked why the athletics department paid for McKamey’s portion of the trip (the foundation paid for his airfare while UNM athletics paid $8,189 for his golf and lodging portion of the trip) if he were not a UNM employee.

“At the request of the Athletics Department, in his role as Major Gifts officer at the time, Kole joined the trip to engage with donors and potential donors who also attended to discuss ongoing and potential gifts to the UNM Athletics Department,” Foundation Director of Marketing & Communication Jennifer Kemp wrote the Journal. “The Athletics department paid for the remaining costs.”

Krebs acknowledged Sunday with the Journal that “hindsight is 20/20” and he likely wouldn’t do the same trip again, but made no apologies about the intent and need to continually build relationships, even with existing donors.

“The relationships were strengthened, and I do believe we brought in new money as a result of that trip,” Krebs said. “… I would argue there was a return on the investment on this trip.”

He declined to say how much money has been secured as a result.

The Journal submitted an Inspection of Public Records Act request last month for several documents and information regarding the trip. Among the requests was a list of those who went on the trip.

Sports information director Frank Mercogliano said Monday athletics does not have such a document listing those who went. The athletics department contracted with Anthony Travel, Inc. for the trip — a deal that secured lodging at both the Old Course Hotel in Scotland and the Trump Turnberry resort with tee times at five famed golf courses in the area.

An estimated $13,000 of the $39,000 athletics said it paid was in the form of penalties for not meeting the contractually agreed upon number of 24 paid golfers on the trip, according to an athletics spokesman. Krebs said there were 16 golfers and a total travel party of around 23.

In an October 2014 email exchange between Krebs and Anthony Travel, Krebs expressed concern about filling the required slots.

“Based on your past experience, will we have trouble finding 24 golfers at this price ($8,189 for golfers, $6,399 for non-golfers on the trip)?” Krebs wrote. That price did not include air fare.

The Anthony Travel event manager Ruth Tarwacki responded: “For this demographic generally we see price to be less of the challenge for the guests signing up compared to their busy schedule. The sweet spot for these trips is generally 28-32 golfers so schedule permitting 24 should be easy to get to.”

On Friday, Krebs and McKamey sent an email to members of the Lobo Club Board warning of an upcoming television report that “may focus on some specific details about the (2015 Scotland) trip, including the role each of us had on the trip.”

The report referenced is a KRQE-TV investigative scheduled to air Tuesday night by reporter Larry Barker.

“We want to make you aware of a potential media story that would be reported by Larry Barker with KRQE that may emerge this upcoming week regarding the UNM Athletics Department and the Lobo Club,” is how the letter opened.