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Friday, November 28, 2014

Law group accused of money mischief

news@dailylobo.com
@ArdeeTheJourno

UNM is investigating the Student Bar Association chapter for creating an unauthorized, off-campus bank account and misuse of the money therein, which came from University funds and from law student fees.

According to a statement issued by UNM Tuesday afternoon, the University has notified various campus departments, including police, about the incident.

“UNM is investigating expenditures made in this unauthorized account to determine if any violations of law or policy have occurred,” the statement read. “A meticulous review by UNM’s Internal Audit Department is currently ongoing. UNM police department has been notified of the audit and will review the findings to determine if further action should be taken.”

The issue about the SBA’s funds arose after UNM Law School student Christopher Dodd filed a public records request asking for “any document indicating the approximate total dollar amount believed to have gone missing from the UNM School of Law Student Bar Association’s bank accounts” and obtained a list of bank statements Monday.

The bank account was created by the SBA with the New Mexico Educators Federal Credit Union.

The statements, which showed the account’s transactions from April 2012, included expenditures at various stores, such as a $200.83 expenditure at Tiffany’s in San Francisco, a $146.74 expenditure at a Hyatt Hotel and repeated expenditures at Zen Nail Spa totalling $118.

The statements also showed repeated transactions in bars, such as a $66.89 total bill at Zinc Wine Bar, and in coffee shops, such as a $51.01 bill at a Satellite.

Utility and insurance transactions, including repeated expenditures at Qwest totalling $250.83 and a $202.70 expenditure at Geico, were present.

Cash withdrawals, the single largest of which was $303.21, were also listed in the statements.

In an email sent Monday, Dodd said he let the student body of the law school know about the document.

“I felt that as the issue concerns our money, every student is entitled to see the records,” he said.

According to the statement, UNM is also ready to involve state officials into the investigation.

“As it required by law and University policy, UNM has also notified the (New Mexico) State Auditor of a possible misuse of funds and will send the results of the internal investigation to that office when it is completed,” according to the statement.

“University Counsel and UNM Communications staff will continue to work to comply with requests for information as efficiently and transparently as possible without jeopardizing the integrity of the ongoing investigation.”

The University closed the SBA bank account immediately after its discovery, according to the statement.

SBA Board President Daniel Apodaca said in an email statement forwarded to the Daily Lobo Tuesday that he admitted that the association mishandled funds last school year. But he said none of the current board members were involved in the alleged misuse of funds.

“An investigation has revealed that a member of the 2012-2013 Executive Board may have misappropriated those funds by using them in ways not approved by the Board,” he said. “No member of the current SBA Board is suspected of malfeasance in this matter or had any insight as to the actions of the former board member.”

Apodaca said that at the moment, SBA has an annual budget of $3,519.53. He said the association has also cancelled its Halloween party as “an act of ‘tightening the belt,’ as it were, to ensure that student funds are being spent in ways that best benefit the students.”

SBA will release the results of UNM’s investigation “as soon as possible,” Apodaca said in the statement. He said the organization’s current board will strive to make their operations more transparent to the University community.

“The current board is making every effort to provide transparency with this issue and is making strides to make sure that this sort of issue never happens again,” he said.