ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – University of New Mexico Athletic Director Paul Krebs has been keeping a secret under wraps for two years and it involves that ill-fated golf trip to Scotland.
“I think looking back on it two years later I understand why people might question it,” Krebs told KRQE News 13 earlier this month.
Organized by an Indiana travel agency it was a dream vacation with a hefty $8,189 per person price tag: The pitch? Tour with Lobo celebrities Paul Krebs and Craig Neal for a week long golfing holiday in Scotland. Stay at the finest hotels and play golf on some of the most famous golf courses in the world. Twenty-three participants signed up for the June 2015 Scotland holiday. But not everyone paid their own way. For some, it was a free vacation at public expense.
A Larry Barker investigation found the public footed the bill for UNM officials to go to Scotland and play golf. The Athletic Department shelled out tens of thousands of dollars for airfare, travel agency fees, luxury hotels and daily rounds of championship golf at world class golf courses.
Earlier this month, UNM Acting President Chaouki Abdallah told KRQE News 13 the Scotland trip was an inappropriate use of public money.
“This is not where university funds should be should be spent. I want the public to know that in the future we will not be using university funds for such activities,” President Abdallah said.
Paul Krebs justified the expenditure as a working business trip. He said executives tagged along with potential donors to drum up financial support for the school’s athletic programs.
“The trip was a working trip and it was designed to immerse us with these donors. It was an intensive experience and I understand why people may question it,” Krebs said earlier this month.
Athletic Department documents obtained by KRQE News 13 show someone disguised the trip by recording it as a basketball tournament in Ireland. Earlier this month Krebs confirmed the Scotland golf trip cost UNM $39,382.
But now it turns out that wasn’t exactly the truth. KRQE News 13 has learned Paul Krebs has been keeping some things about that 2015 golf junket under wraps.
“VP Krebs came to me and told me that he wanted to tell me something that he had forgotten or did not tell me before,” UNM President Abdallah said. “I was not happy.”
Paul Krebs told President Abdallah it wasn’t just Athletic Department bigwigs who got a free vacation to Scotland. Krebs now admits, UNM quietly picked up the tab for a select group of local businessmen to go on the trip. He admits using $24,000 in university funds to give private individuals a free golfing holiday. The Athletic Director says UNM paid for their trip because they were potential donors to the athletic program.
Add it all up, and the public ended up shelling out $64,949 for a golfing holiday in Scotland.
It’s a bombshell UNM’s Athletic Director failed to disclose until last week. President Abdallah acknowledges this is a “serious” omission. “There’s no question in my mind it was wrong,” President Abdallah said.
So not only did the public pay for Krebs, Neal and McKamey to live it up in Scotland, but businessmen Darin Davis, Raleigh Gardenhire and Paul Gibson also got a free vacation courtesy of UNM. Never mind the expenditures are in direct violation of the state constitution’s anti-donation clause.
“He told me about it in no uncertain terms,” President Abdallah said. “He didn’t try to sugarcoat it. He said I made a mistake. I didn’t tell you about it before. Here’s what happened. I’m going to try to fix it.”
UNM fundraising activities are handled exclusively by the UNM Foundation which is a private non-profit organization, separate from the university. When asked why the UNM Foundation didn’t pay for the Scotland golf trip, President Abdallah said, “It would have been the appropriate thing to do. The foundation is the entity that’s charged to try to raise money.”
President Abdallah says the UNM Foundation has not reimbursed the university money that went towards the Scotland trip. The UNM Foundation did not respond to a request for comment.
“I’ve worked with VP Krebs for a while and I think he is an honorable man,” President Abdallah told KRQE News 13. “He’s done a lot of good for this university.”
KRQE News 13 asked President Abdallah whether an ‘honorable’ man misspends tens of thousands of dollars in university funds?
“Even honorable men sometimes make a mistake,” President Abdallah responded.
The money that was inappropriately spent on golf trips for private individuals was paid back late last week. The UNM President’s office said the money was received from an “anonymous donor”.
“We do have checks and balances. We do internal audits sometimes we find mistakes and sometimes we miss it,” President Abdallah said. He admits, as mistakes go, this one is “a big one.”