The eight-year tenure of New Mexico Lottery chief executive officer Tom E. Romero ended abruptly Wednesday when the seven-member, governor-appointed Lottery Authority Board voted unanimously to immediately terminate his contract.
Neither Romero nor board chairman Dan Salzwedel would discuss the termination immediately after the board’s special session, and the board issued a statement Wednesday evening that offered no explanation.
“The board wishes to thank Mr. Romero for his many years of devoted service to the lottery. We look forward to the continued success of the Legislative Lottery Scholarship program for the students of New Mexico,” the statement read.
After a 70-minute closed executive session that began shortly after 4 p.m. Wednesday, the panel voted 7-0 in open session to terminate Romero’s contract on a motion by board member Amy Bailey. The open session lasted less than 4 minutes.
Romero, who had been the lottery’s executive vice president of security since its inception in 1996, had been CEO since June 1, 2006. He was interim CEO for seven months prior to that.
His current contract was not slated to expire until July 31, 2015. His annual salary was $155,000, said lottery spokeswoman Linda Hamlin.
In August, Romero was elected to a one-year term as chairman of the Powerball Group of the Iowa-based Multi-State Lottery Association. The association operates the multi-state Powerball, Hot Lotto, Mega Millions and other lottery games. It was unknown Wednesday whether his termination will affect that post.
Before joining the state Lottery, Romero was in law enforcement and served as the bureau chief of the Law Enforcement Academy and Special Investigations Division of the New Mexico Department of Public Safety.
The primary beneficiary of the New Mexico Lottery is the Legislative Lottery Scholarship program, which pays tuition for eligible students attending state-funded colleges and universities. In fiscal year 2013, the lottery had revenues of $141.8 million, a 5.9 percent increase from the previous year, and contributed $43.7 million to the scholarship program.
By statute, the lottery must contribute at least 30 percent of its gross revenues to the scholarship fund. For the past few years, legislators have been trying to prop up the program, fearing that demand for the scholarships is outstripping the lottery’s ability to sustain it.