Holding the right people responsible
Recently, the New Mexico State Auditor’s Office completed an audit of expenditures by the Regional Coalition of LANL Communities amid claims of unallowable expenditures. Subsequently, Los Alamos County, the fiscal agent for the regional coalition, contracted with Adams + Crow to do an independent analysis.
Most people don’t have time to read a 40-page audit and a 40-page report, and so they must rely on media coverage. After a close review of both reports, I feel the media missed critical findings and in the process shifted most all of the blame to our House District 46 Democratic Party candidate, Andrea Romero, who had a contract as executive director of the coalition.
Long before Romero was hired in 2016, the regional coalition and its fiscal agent, Los Alamos County, had established a fiscal process that both the auditor’s office and the law firm report felt was guided by “confusion,” blurred roles and responsibilities for oversight, showing a willful disregard for state law and the State Auditor’s Office .
The Adams + Crow report points to the county as the source of this confusion and expressed surprise problems were not resolved long before Romero went to work for the regional coalition: “This ‘confusion,’ however, was avoidable and could/should have been addressed much earlier in the five+ years of Regional Coalition of LANL Communities’ existence given the number of educated and sophisticated people working with the county.”
These failings predated Romero’s being retained.
The state auditor’s audit and the Adams + Crow report clearly show that the vast majority of unallowable expenditures were incurred by coalition board members, senior county staffers and their guests.
Romero’s role was to pay the check and submit invoices for reimbursement by the regional coalition treasurer.
Coalition bylaws indicate that Secretary-Treasurer Henry Roybal was responsible for overseeing and approving expenditures and that Los Alamos County had assumed an oversight responsibility.
Neither performed that role, in my opinion. They allowed the coalition travel policy to remain in conflict with state law, routinely approved unallowable expenditures and ignored a 2013 auditor’s memo that indicated that regional coalition audits were required.
Some have claimed that Romero attempted to change the travel policy to hide unallowable expenditures, but the law firm report stated:
“From our investigation of documents and interviews, including analysis of witness credibility, we conclude the county’s ‘corrective’ efforts not only reflect poorly on county officials and employees but may constitute efforts to intentionally mislead others and/or conceal misconduct.”
Note that the blame is placed on Los Alamos County, not Romero.
It is hard to understand how the media failed to report more fully such essential details.
It is easy to see how some Democrats, reading only misleading rendering reports, would have legitimate concerns, as so many newly energized Democrats want to reform and strengthen the party.
What is lost in all this is the exemplary job Romero did as executive director for the regional coalition.
The board was prepared to renew her contract a second time.
An Albuquerque Journal opinion piece by Ron Lovato of Ohkay Ohwingeh, stated:
“Under Ms. Romero’s leadership, the coalition has lobbied successfully for millions of dollars in increased funds for cleanup of nuclear waste at LANL; passed legislation in the 2018 state Legislature preserving the $86 million in GRT from LANL’s prime contractors … [vetoed by Gov. Susana Martinez]; and created pathways to successful dialogue and relationships between DOE and new LANL contractors to engage in the community’s concerns and opportunities for success.”
Imagine what Romero could do for us in the Roundhouse.
Voters deserve an honest discussion of the issues.
If you would like to review a highly detailed analysis of the state audit and law firm report, go to RetakeOurDemocracy.org.
It substantiates clearly where the responsibility lies.
Paul Gibson is co-founder of Retake Our Democracy. He hosts a weekly radio show and blogs on Santa Fe politics.