SANTA FE – Andrea Romero, until recently executive director of the Regional Coalition of LANL Communities — where she’s faced criticism for travel expense reimbursements for baseball tickets and meals with alcoholic beverages — confirmed Monday that she won’t be seeking her old job.
Romero, who is also a candidate for state representative, said in an email that she won’t submit a response when the coalition issues a new request for proposals for executive director services.
Romero had been coalition director from 2015 until March 1, when her contract expired. For the moment, the coalition of local governments that lobbies for environmental cleanup money for Los Alamos National Laboratory and community investment by the lab has no staff.
The state auditor’s office has announced it will look into spending by the coalition, which has a $200,000 budget split between federal and local government dollars.
Romero has said she submitted the expenses expecting Los Alamos County, the coalition’s fiscal agent, to determine if any didn’t meet coalition policy.
After a community group objected to the travel costs after obtaining coalition documents through a public records request, the county determined Romero should pay back about $2,200. The expenses included costs for coalition group events in Washington D.C. — a coalition dinner with booze attended by board members like former mayors Javier Gonzales of Santa Fe and Alice Lucero of Española and tickets to a Washington Nationals game.
Romero said Monday that she plans to repay $1,100.
Romero, who is running as a Democrat for northern Santa Fe County’s District 46 House seat, has argued that the controversy is politically motivated and intended to benefit her opponent, incumbent Rep. Carl Trujillo. She issued a Saturday news release saying she was not “backing down.”
“Unfortunately, my opponent doesn’t share the values of our district,” she wrote. “And he’s started already — many of you have seen the recent headlines, while not surprising, exemplify his attack-style tactics and politics of division. He would rather exploit divisions in this region, where we have always lived and worked together, to advance his political agenda.”
In a Monday statement, Trujillo called Romero “out of touch.”
He added: “I think this is another desperate attempt to deflect her repeated abuse of taxpayer dollars and blame anyone and everyone. I have built a legacy of cracking down on corruption and fraud like that which Ms. Romero is guilty of and is the clearest evidence yet that she’s unsuited for the responsibility of representing the people at the legislature.”
In an email, Romero said she wasn’t applying for the Regional Coalition job because “Rep. Carl Trujillo and his allies have decided to play dirty politics with all of my work endeavors. I do not want to drag RCLC’s good work into this campaign.”