The New Mexico Office of the Attorney General released a report Thursday, calling out University of New Mexico officials for “a flagrant abuse of transparency laws.”
According to the report, UNM has “established a pattern and practice of neglecting their responsibility to allow access” to the Inspection of Public Records Act and the Open Meetings Act.
“It’s a very dangerous practice and UNM needs to do some soul-searching as they measure how committed they are to transparency,” Attorney General Hector Balderas said.
The 32-page report reveals multiple emails from former UNM Athletic Director Paul Krebs that Balderas said were wrongly kept from the public.
In one email, Krebs wrote that he “was not forthcoming with the press” regarding his use of public money to pay for the expensive 2015 Scotland golf trip.
He also directed staff to delete emails and other documents to prevent them from being released to the public through records requests.
A 2017 email to his wife, UNM Associate Professor Marjori Krebs, instructed her to “delete everything I sent when done so nothing discoverable in IPRA request. Including from your delete file.”
Krebs retired last summer, shortly after details of the Scotland trip became public.
In another email, Krebs told former Senior Associate Athletic Director of Administration Kaley Espindola and Athletic Department Spokesperson Frank Mercogliano to “delete all texts and any emails related to reinstatement skiing. Delete this email.”
Mercogliano told KRQE News 13 that he deleted emails but that they were rough drafts of press releases.
“Did I delete the drafts and stuff that had the wrong information? Yeah, absolutely because I don’t want the information that was never correct in the first place to get out,” he said.
However, those emails are still subject to public records requests as evidenced by the Attorney General’s transparency report.
“Knowing that those emails are subject to [the Inspection of Public Records Act], should you have deleted them?” KRQE asked Mercogliano.
“I would almost say, at the time, honestly you’re not even thinking that,” he responded. “It’s, this is incorrect information, so you just get rid of it.”
The report also addresses four Open Meetings Act complaints. To read full report, click here.
In response, UNM issued the following statement on Thursday:
As a large and complex public institution, The University’s mission to serve the people of this state can only be successful if it has the trust and support of the public.
“We seek to immediately correct errors and omissions, and improve on current processes and policies. We are also absolutely committed to adhering to state law,” said UNM President Garnett Stokes. “I have emphatically expressed my willingness to work with the AG’s office to ensure that UNM is transparent, cooperative and in compliance with the law. New Mexicans deserve that from the state’s flagship institution.”
The University has received 535 IPRA requests in 2018, an increase of 37% over the same period in 2017. To better facilitate timely response, UNM has added a support position for the custodian of public records. As of September 1, the fees charged in association with larger requests have been suspended pending a review of the current practice. With regard to records management and retention, the University developed an administrative policy that was adopted in July.