The New Mexico Attorney General’s Office says it’s not happy with how the University of New Mexico is conducting its internal investigation into the school’s athletic department. It even calls the actions of Interim President Chaouki Abdallah “troubling.”
The New Mexico Attorney General’s office sent the following letter to the University of New Mexico:
Dear President Abdallah,
The University of New Mexico Athletics Department has operated under a cloud of suspicion following allegations that public funds were inappropriately used for private purposes in connection with a luxury golf trip to Scotland in 2015. These allegations prompted a special audit, which found a number of financial issues, including misuse of public funds and use of donor funds contrary to donor intent. The audit also raised questions regarding the relationships between and flow of funds through UNM Athletics, the UNM Foundation, and the Lobo Club. Allegations have also surfaced that former athletics director Paul Krebs instructed staff to delete email records potentially related to financial issues.
Recently, it was reported that you engaged a retired judge to conduct an investigation of unspecified scope and that you accepted the investigator’s findings orally, without any written report.
In light of the pervasive issues facing UNM Athletics, the decision to procure investigative services and to do so without a written report is troubling, to say the least. Because the findings are not memorialized, the work is unreviewable by oversight entities– such as the Board of Regents, the New Mexico Legislature, and our office– and unusable by the next University President, who will be responsible for resolving many of these issues. This is also problematic given that you were personally apprised of an ongoing review being conducted by the New Mexico Office of the Attorney General and expressed that you would fully cooperate and not take any steps that would impede that review.
You previously committed to fully cooperate with the review being conducted by our office. We request to meet with you to establish parameters for your cooperation and participation in our review.
Sharon L. Pino Deputy
The University of New Mexico sent the following letter in response:
Dear Ms. Pino,
I am in receipt of your letter dated December 1, 2017. During the period of the review of UNM Athletics finances, the university cooperated fully with the examination conducted by the Office of the State Auditor (OSA). It is important to note that the OSA and UNM staff reviewed more than 36,000 transactions overall, encompassing some $76 million. Hundreds of thousands of other transactions were provided to the OSA for background information. While the audit identified areas needing structural and reporting improvement, I am pleased that no fraud or crime was detected. The few transactions cited largely involve areas where corrective actions are already underway.
In the process of conducting business for UNM–the state’s flagship university which serves nearly 30,000 students statewide and is the size of a small city–there are, unfortunately, and will always be issues of many different natures and severities that need to be reviewed.
The AG’s letter assumes that the matter for which Judge Black was contracted is related to the financial issues previously addressed by the State Auditor. It is not. It is a separate inquiry dealing with different issues. As we have publicly stated on numerous occasions, allegations raised by members of our community always deserve an initial inquiry. We use those initial reviews to determine whether any additional exploration might be necessary. In this instance, Judge Bruce Black was contracted to conduct that preliminary inquiry.
As we publicly stated two weeks ago, upon the conclusion of Judge Black’s review, the university is continuing to evaluate processes, procedures, and the overall culture of the athletics department, and the broader UNM campus, to ensure best business, management, and human relations practices. We also previously stated the initial review has prompted us to look at a few discrete matters. We regret the need for investigations, but believe it is UNM’s responsibility to investigate allegations that might affect our community. This process is still ongoing, and we have been as forthcoming with details as we can be, without compromising the integrity of the process, while ensuring those who are being asked to participate that they can be candid and cooperative. Until then, please be assured that evaluating our campus culture and improving it for all members of the UNM community is our priority.
I stand by the decisions I have made with the support of our Board of Regents, who received a full briefing from Judge Black, and have been informed through the appropriate channels throughout the entire process. Our course of action has been in the best interest of our students and the university as a whole, and we are proceeding in a manner that will best serve the incoming president. My office will be in touch to coordinate a meeting. Knowing the Attorney General’s investigation is still open, I welcome further discussion regarding any concerns that his office may have and will provide any information they may need.