We’ve kept silent regarding the Regional Coalition of LANL Communities and its sorry story of misspending, deceit and exposure. However, with the recent release of an audit and no clear mission, it’s clear the group is nothing more than a slush fund for politicians. Taxpayers must push to stop this mindless spending.
Add to that the hiring of Eric Vasquez as former director Andrea Romero’s replacement and we taxpayers have a stewing recipe for more waste of taxpayer dollars.
Readers may remember Vasquez as the former salaried Española Chamber of Commerce executive director who simultaneously had another full-time job operating a failed newsletter, sometimes from the Chamber’s offices. He’s also married to Stephanie Garcia-Richard, who is on her way out as a state representative, as she runs for state land commissioner.
No conflicts of interest there.
The audit revealed $50,000 in illegal spending. The budget is $200,000. A little over $100,00 comes from the Department of Energy the rest is provided by City of Española ($5,000), Rio Arriba County ($10,000), Los Alamos County ($60,000), along with six other counties/cities/pueblos. We don’t know anything about Los Alamos politics, nor that county’s budget. We’ll wager the good folks up the hill would like their $60,000 back.
We do know Rio Arriba County is in its annual budget frenzy and it could use its $10,000.
Much of the misspending centers around what Coalition members call bad policies. Los Alamos County is the administrative agent for the Coalition. It went so far as to try to rewrite rules to make the illegal spending legal. So much for cleaning up their act(s).
Romero is now the Democratic nominee for the state House District 46 seat. We’ll spare readers a rehash of the primary election, which featured Carl Trujillo, accused of sexual harassment, against a wildly misspending Romero. Voters had a Hobson’s choice and we got Romero, not an ideal pick.
The media has gone after Romero like sharks after bloody chum. We agree Romero acted illegally, by Coalition standards, and she knew what she was doing. However, left out of most columns and news stories are the real guilty parties, the ones who ordered the $28 shots of whiskey, ate the $1,200 dinners and went to the ball games. Those folks are almost all still in place.
Everyone seems to be going after Romero for her bad actions and letting the politicians skate away. Yes, she was the salaried person responsible for the lavish alcohol and food purchases, as well as baseball tickets and air travel. However, she worked for a board.
Our mayor at the time, Alice Lucero, represented Española. She went on some of these trips and partook in the fancy dining, drinking and entertainment.
All the politicians involved knew exactly what was going on. They all pooled their respective constituents’ money and knew this would be a year of free meals and parties, such as the one in Washington D.C., with good food and entertainment. None will admit it but there was no way to provide what contracts call “deliverables” for these party trips.
Their claims of success in swaying Los Alamos National Laboratory officials to do anything are laughable. Lab leaders do what the corporate types at Bechtel and Department of Energy tell them to do, not what a Rio Arriba County commissioner or a Santa Fe city manager asks.
Some small-time nobodies showing up in a congressman’s office is also a waste of time. Congressmen do what it takes to get re-elected, not what an Española mayor or a Taos city manager may want. How naive can these folks be?
So, sure tie Romero to a stake and stone her, but please save some rage and stones for the elected officials who funded her operation and partook in her spendy hospitality.