Tom E. Romero, the recently fired chief executive officer of the New Mexico Lottery, will receive one year’s pay between now and June 30, lottery board chairman Dan Salzwedel said Friday.
Romero, whose annual salary was $165,000, will be paid in equal installments during that period, Salzwedel said. The former CEO also will receive health care coverage through June 30, at a cost to the lottery of about $5,700, Salzwedel said.
Following a 70-minute closed executive session on Nov. 13 at lottery headquarters, the seven-member, governor-appointed board voted unanimously to immediately terminate Romero’s contract, which was not scheduled to end until July 31, 2015. No explanation was given for Romero’s firing and he declined to discuss his termination after the meeting.
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.
Salzwedel said lottery finance director Sylvia Jaramillo has been named acting CEO and that the board hopes to name an interim CEO within three weeks. A national search for a permanent CEO will be conducted, he said, and could wrap up in February.
The primary beneficiary of the state 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 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, realizing that demand for the scholarships is outstripping the lottery’s ability to sustain it.
Romero, who was elected to a one-year term as chairman of the Powerball Group of the Iowa-based Multi-State Lottery Association in August, will lose that unpaid position as well. The association operates the multi-state Powerball, Hot Lotto, Mega Millions and other lottery games.
Charles “Chuck” Strutt, executive director of the association, said Friday that because officers must be CEOs of a participating lottery, Romero’s chairmanship ended with his termination.