Official at northern New Mexico agency defends her spending
SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — A candidate for the New Mexico state legislature says questions about her spending habits as an official with a northern New Mexico agency are politically motivated.
An audit recently found that Andrea Romero, executive director of the Regional Coalition of LANL Communities, spent $1,850 on a dinner in Washington, D.C., $307 for a dozen Major League Baseball tickets and at other gatherings where alcohol was purchased.
The Regional Coalition of LANL Communities is an agency made of nine northern New Mexico cities, counties and pueblos surrounding the Department of Energy’s Los Alamos National Laboratory, the Santa Fe New Mexican reported .
The coalition’s travel policies prohibit alcohol as an allowable expense, but the audit says Romero was reimbursed $1,850 by Los Alamos County for an invoice that included alcohol.
Romero said questions around her spending are politically motivated. A group tied to Rep. Carl Trujillo, whom Romero is challenging in the Democratic primary in June, filed an open records request on the agency’s spending.
She said the group had never shown any interest in the coalition or its business until she announced her candidacy.
“In my strong opinion, I believe it’s very politically motivated and looking to discredit both the coalition and my work with the coalition because they’re in direct alliance with the opponent I am taking on in the election,” Romero said.
Trujillo countered that his constituents were courageous to uncover the spending.
“Standing up against corruption is my top priority, and it’s the reason I ran for office in the first place, so it’s not surprising that many people in my district share that priority,” Trujillo said Saturday in an email.
The coalition’s 2018 budget is $212,000. Of that, $30,000 is allotted for travel.
Romero said it will be up to the coalition’s board to determine how to proceed.
The board meets March 5, when it will consider a proposed contract renewal with Romero, who was hired in 2015 at a $140,000-a-year salary.
Information from: The Santa Fe New Mexican, http://www.sfnewmexican.com