In 2015, Kole McKamey traveled to Scotland for the golf trip of a lifetime with people who could dramatically change the direction of athletics at the University of New Mexico with one very large donation.
This week, he is on the witness stand in the Second Judicial District Courtroom testifying in a case against the event’s organizer, Paul Krebs, the former athletic director of New Mexico’s largest university who is now facing two counts of embezzlement.
Krebs sat with his two lawyers at the defense table dressed in a dark blazer, light-colored pants and a silver and cherry tie that’s a slightly different shade than the cherry he usually wears at Lobos games.
He is charged with one count of embezzlement of more than $25,000 and one count of embezzlement of more than $2,500 but less than $25,000. Both are second degree felonies.
On Monday, Krebs faced potential jurors in the morning and then heard opening statements from a prosecutor from the New Mexico Attorney General’s Office, his attorney and testimony from McKamey.
Dozens of supporters sat behind him, many dressed in pastel golf gear from their morning rounds. A fitting fashion statement since golf is what landed Krebs in this legal trouble.
In August 2019, prosecutors alleged that Krebs used his position as athletic director to move thousands of dollars from that budget, funded by state taxpayers, to cover losses from the golf trip to Scotland that was designed to raise money for the Wolf. Club, the arm of the university that receives private donations for Lobo athletics.
There isn’t much doubt that Krebs violated the policy at the university, his lawyers are focusing the argument to question whether he violated the law.
“Let me start by saying that Mr. Krebs is charged with embezzlement,” defense attorney Paul Kennedy said. “He is not accused of breaking the rules at UNM.”
This standard was already granted by the attorney general’s office when it dropped five counts of the indictment that included tampering with evidence, criminal solicitation to commit evidence tampering, tax fraud, illegal interest in a public contract, theft, and an additional count of embezzlement of money.
On June 16, Judge Cindy Leos dismissed four of those charges for lack of evidence, “due to a prosecution error.”
The attorney general’s office said in court documents that Krebs may have violated UNM financial policy and best practices with his conduct, but conceded that he could not prove beyond a reasonable doubt that he committed a crime.
While that ghost of the attorney general’s office seems to be the premise for Kreb’s defense, the trip to Scotland and how Krebs pushed for it to happen despite a clear lack of interest is how the prosecutor set out on Monday. their argument that Krebs violated the law.
“He indicated to his staff that to bring more donors on the trip his golf package would be paid for,” prosecutor Andrew Coffing said in his opening statement. “Three donors accepted the deal, the golf was paid for by the UNM Athletic Department fund. $24,500. This is strictly against the rules.”
To explain the golf trip play, prosecutor John Duran brought McKamey to the witness stand to discuss his role in the fundraiser that was intended to raise money for Lobo sports that could be a “transformative gift, something that moves the needle,” McKamey said. .
Krebs came up with the idea for the trip in 2014. He found a program that would give donors five rounds at prestigious golf courses in Scotland and accommodation in exchange for an $8,000 donation to the Lobo Club. Any potential donor would have to cover their travel expenses.
It drew donors with NFL Hall of Famer and UNM Lobo Brian Urlacher as a featured guest. McKamey, a former quarterback for the Lobos, had recently been hired by the UNM Foundation to solicit “significant gifts” from people to donate at least $25,000 and his first major task was to get people to pay and join the trip. golf.
Quickly, the fundraiser made its way to a bunker.
Urlacher withdrew from the trip. One person who got engaged got sick and died. Other potential donors did not want to go on the European vacation because it fell on Father’s Day weekend.
Suddenly, McKamey needed to fill three spots to qualify for the trip Krebs arranged. And the athletic director came up with a plan to cover his losses, McKamey testified.
“He basically said, ‘offer them a discount. They have to get out and we’ll take care of the rest,’” McKamey told the jury. “I took all three spots after that.”
Prosecutors say this action is the reason for the first indictment. By covering the $8,000 plus tax for three people to play five courses usually played by professional golfers, Krebs covered his responsibility for arranging the trip, but then used money from the university’s sports budget to pay for the more than $24,000.
Krebs’ lawyers argue the money came from discretionary funds that are part of the athletics budget that allow him to spend as he sees fit. They said he moved the money after he returned from the trip, just before the end of the school’s fiscal year.
McKamey, just weeks into his new job with the UNM Foundation, a fundraiser for university programs, joined his father-in-law on the golf trip.
He testified that his direct supervisor told him that the trip was inadvisable and that he should not go. However, Krebs encouraged him to join the trip to Scotland.
“It was incredible. It was flawless on The Journey of a Lifetime,” McKamey testified. “I knew I was happy to be a part of it.” In retrospect, to a question from a prosecutor, he replied that “it wasn’t very good.”
On Tuesday, Krebs’ defense attorneys will have the opportunity to cross-examine McKamey and his statements.
“There was urgency, the trip was coming up soon, (Krebs) needed people, enough to get even four people to play,” McKamey said before court adjourned. “I needed to get the job done.”
The three people McKamey brought in to finish his job who took advantage of Krebs’ direction to waive their fees — Raleigh Gardenhire, Darin Davis and Paul Gibson — are on the witness list and could testify Tuesday.