By Daniel Libit
While University of New Mexico football coach Bob Davie remains mum on the ongoing inquiries into his professional conduct, he has others doing plenty of barking on his behalf. And, evidently, with some impact.
NMFishbowl.com has obtained emails that show Davie’s lawyer, Michael Kennedy, participating in the drafting of the official statement UNM interim President Chaouki Abdallah gave last month about the nature of the internal investigations.
This interaction came after Kennedy had written to University Counsel Elsa Cole complaining about comments Abdallah made in an Albuquerque Journal story about his desire to further the athletics probe.
“Not only did he throw Bob under the bus,” Kennedy emailed Cole on Nov. 19, referring to Abdallah, “he created the (wrongful and damaging) impression that Bob’s past conduct is the primary basis for the upcoming investigation.”
In the Journal story published three days prior, Abdallah confirmed that the school would be hiring a law firm to conduct a second inquiry into an unidentified matter involving the athletic department. The school had initially hired former federal judge Bruce Black to scope things out.
Though UNM officials have refrained from publicly identifying the target of the investigations, NMFishbowl.com has reported in multiple stories since September that they center around allegations made against Davie. When the Journal asked Abdallah why the university, in this case, has been so willfully nonspecific, compared to an earlier Black-led probe into former UNM Regent Jack Fortner, Abdallah replied, “Maybe it wasn’t as explosive.”
In his email to Cole, Kennedy groused that this comment unfairly “fueled the fire” of suspicion towards his client — even though Abdallah never identified Davie by name or otherwise.
Kennedy went on: “Bob and I regret continuing on the high road by refraining from comment and referring [Journal reporter] Jessica Dyer to the President’s Office. Bob is anxious to have the media understand that virtually every allegation investigated by Judge Black were [sic] unfounded. It has become even more critical that we have an understanding in place before the new investigation is formally announced.”
“Please add your thoughts asap — this may be posted by 1 p.m. mountain in our ‘newsroom’ site,” Cole emailed Kennedy.
A half-hour later, Kennedy emailed Cole back: “Please call if you would like to discuss these proposed changes. I believe they are necessary to establish that the ‘Bob Davie investigation’ has concluded and that a broad, university-wide investigation is about to begin. These changes are critical to ensuring that the upcoming investigation is not perceived as an ongoing Bob Davie investigation. I have also included the names of individuals to be interviewed with regard to the two pending matters.”
Kennedy did not respond to a request for comment about why he was ostensibly under the impression that Davie was not the key focus of the investigations. This assertion is contradicted by what multiple sources have told NMFishbowl.com over the last three months. It is also belied by an engagement proposal sent by the law firm Hogan Marren Babbo & Rose to UNM on Nov. 8, which described its mandate to investigate allegations that football players had been physically abused and that there was improper involvement in a police sexual assault investigation of a player.
In their Nov. 20 email exchange, Kennedy also asked Cole to “change concluded in the first sentence to ‘conducted’.”
Cole replied, “I am having those edits made.”
Sure enough, Abdallah’s formal statement included the word “conducted” in the first sentence and, as Kennedy insisted, described the next iteration of the investigation as “looking further across multiple areas of the institution.”
A UNM spokesperson declined to comment about why Kennedy was given input into the public statement of the school’s interim president. Abdallah likewise did not respond to a request for comment sent through that same spokesperson.
This is not the first incident to raise questions about UNM’s deference to the personal attorneys of school officials under scrutiny. On Nov. 6, the Journal reported that UNM had allowed Paul Krebs’ lawyer, former UNM Regent Gene Gallegos, to initially vet and remove certain emails Krebs had sent from his university account, prior to the school furnishing those documents in response to a public records request.
Last week, UNM Athletic Director Eddie Nuñez told the Journal that he was “in full support of (Davie) right now.” NMFishbowl.com reported last month about an email Brian DeSpain, UNM’s football operations director (and Davie’s son-in-law), sent to Nuñez, appealing to him to “illustrate” to Abdallah the “urgency” of ending the investigation for the sake of the football program’s reputation.
Update 12/21/17: On Thursday, UNM provided NMFishbowl.com with the above-referenced PDF attachment that Bob Davie’s attorney, Michael Kennedy, sent to UNM lawyer Elsa Cole, as they emailed back and forth hashing out the university’s official statement about the investigation.
As you can see, the statement adopted all of Kennedy’s proposed changes, which included adding the line, “[Bruce Black’s] investigation has concluded.”
Also at Kennedy’s behest, UNM removed this line from the draft statement: “Since the initial review was broad, we have a few discrete issues to continue to look at.”
Tellingly, at the bottom of this document, Kennedy makes some suggestions for people UNM should talk to about two pending concerns, “Mike Walsh” and “Interference”.
As we’ve previously reported, one of the allegations that has been brought to the school’s attention was a physical incident that occurred last year between Davie and Walsh, a former tight end for the Lobos, during the game at New Mexico State. Kennedy appears to recommend that UNM interview former AD Paul Krebs and current team doctors Chris McGrew and Andy Veitch. (McGrew previously confirmed to NMFishbowl.com that he brought the matter to Krebs’ attention the day after the NMSU contest.)
The “interference” likely references an allegation of improper involvement in the campus police investigation of a sexual assault claim made against a UNM Football player. Kevin McCabe is UNM’s chief of police.