By Daniel Libit
Last week, the University of New Mexico finally turned over documents responsive to a series of public records requests I made in November 2018. UNM did so as part of a settlement agreement we reached in January, after the school denied my initial requests based on a specious claim of “reasonable particularity” — basically, that I was not clear enough in specifying the particular documents I was seeking.
I subsequently sued the university for violating the New Mexico Inspection of Public Records Act, my fourth such civil action against UNM. In the end, UNM (or, the State of New Mexico Risk Management Division) agreed to pay me $27,000 and cover my $18,000 in legal fees — in addition to whatever it paid its own outside lawyers in the case — to do what the university very clearly should have done from the beginning.
The documents I sought were:
1. Communications between the university’s legal staff and former Athletic Director Paul Krebs, or his attorney, Gene Gallegos, between Aug. 1, 2018 and Nov. 15, 2018.
Here’s what UNM turned over.
2. Communications between between Marjori Krebs, Paul’s wife and a UNM faculty member, and employees UNM Foundation, between Jan. 1, 2017 and Nov. 15, 2018.
You’ll recall this wild detail from the New Mexico Attorney General’s criminal complaint against Paul Krebs, vis-à-vis the Scotland golf fiasco. From the Albuquerque Journal:
In a July 26, 2017, email from his UNM account – which he was still allowed to use after retirement, as are all UNM retirees – to the UNM email account of his wife, who still works there, Krebs asks her to print and deliver an anonymous letter to the University of New Mexico Foundation explaining a $25,000 donation made to UNM.
Krebs had publicly announced two months earlier that an anonymous donor had given UNM $25,000 to help pay the university back for the public money used for the Scotland trip.
He directs his wife to give the letter – signed simply “The Donor” – to UNM Foundation executive Larry Ryan.
Yes, I was hoping to pry that letter into the public through an IPRA request. But alas, in the course of the settlement, we agreed to limit the request to email only. Simply, I felt more comfortable relying on the school’s IT department to faithfully execute the searches, as opposed to the subjects of the requests I was making.
Here’s what UNM turned over.
3. Text messages between UNM Regent Marron Lee and UNM Associate Vice President Chris Vallejos between March 1, 2018 and Nov. 15, 2018.
In the course of the settlement, we agreed to limit this to texts related to the relocation of the Albuquerque Institute of Math and Sciences, which I wrote about in this story here. The best, practically speaking, UNM’s legal counsel said it could do was to ask Vallejos to search his phone’s text messages — now, almost two years after the fact — and report back his findings.
Accordingly, UNM’s Associate University Counsel Patrick Hart wrote my (excellent) attorney, Nick Hart, that Vallejos “does not recall ever possessing any responsive texts.”
So, there you have it. You can check out the materials at your leisure; nothing really stood out to me as I skimmed them upon receipt, besides: This was worth the cost of hiding? You can judge that for yourself. Then again, it’s impossible to really appraise UNM’s strategy of recalcitrance, because we are still reliant on what certain UNM employees claim to be the full record. There’s a sense of legal accountability to those claims, in this instance, because they have been rendered in the course of litigation. But, who the hell knows, really? I don’t have subpoena power; I can’t personally verify any of it.
I filed this lawsuit, in part, because UNM, having surely absorbed some transparency lessons over the course of the last three years, has gotten decidedly worse in other respects. That’s something you, the New Mexico taxpayer, should continue to care about. After all, you’re the one who’s really paying for all of this.
Daniel Libit founded NMFishbowl.com in Nov. 2016 and published it in regularity until April 2019. He currently runs The Intercollegiate, a national college sports journalism outfit and podcast he launched this past fall. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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