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RCLC’s ex-director, new manager have another connection

SANTA FE – Another connection between the new manager of the Regional Coalition of LANL Communities and Andrea Romero, the embattled former director of the coalition and a candidate for a state House of Representative seat, has emerged.

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Andrea Romero. (Eddie Moore/Albuquerque Journal

The Journal North reported Friday that Romero has a rental agreement with Chicanos Por La Causa New Mexico (CPLC), a social services non-profit, for land in San Miguel County where she operates an ostrich farm.

CPLC was recently awarded the contract to provide executive director services for the Regional Coalition, succeeding Andrea Romero Consulting. Romero’s contract was not renewed earlier this year amid controversy over meal and entertainment reimbursements. A subsequent state audit and another audit commissioned by Los Alamos County confirmed improper expenses, for which Romero has apologized. She has paid back $1,876.

It turns out that Romero, in addition running the ostrich farm on CPLC land, also serves on an advisory board for the CPLC. Although the CPLC board is apparently inactive, Romero mentions her service on the board since 2015 as among her community and public service credentials on a campaign flier. She’s the Democratic nominee for northern Santa Fe County’s House District 46 seat.

Romero said Friday the board has never met since she was named to it.

Santa Fe city councilor and RCLC board member Peter Ives, who was among those who evaluated bids before CPLC was awarded a $169,000-a-year contract to run the coalition, said Friday he was not aware that Romero was associated with CPLC during the bid review process used find a replacement for Romero’s own firm.

If it had been mentioned, Ives said, he would have raised questions about the extent of her involvement with CPLC and acted to “create separation” if necessary, Ives said.

Romero has been renting from CPLC, starting when the organization had another name, since 2015. She doesn’t pay rent for the ostrich farm location in San Miguel County but is required to invest the equivalent of $15,000 into the property. CPLC president Roger Gonzales told the Journal recently that Romero also benefitted from $52,000 that CPLC put into infrastructure on the ranch that the ostrich farm is part of.

Gonzales said he’s never called a meeting of the CPLC advisory board that Romero serves on since he became the organization’s president in February 2017. He said he has a separate governing board of locals and corporate partners that he reports to monthly.

“From our perspective at CPLC-New Mexico, she has no authority or direct involvement with the organization other than a leasee of our ranch,” said Gonzales.

Asked if the organization views her lease agreement and investments made into her rented property as a conflict of interest since she serves on the advisory board, Gonzales said no because none of the money invested in the property by CPLC was specifically for her Tall Foods ostrich business.

“Whether Andrea was or wasn’t the tenant, there were things that had to be done anyway,” he said.

The original lease agreement with Romero was made prior to Romero’s appointment to the CPLC advisory board under previous leadership, said Gonzales.

According to Romero, the advisory board – formed by previous director Todd Lopez when the group was still operating as Siete del Norte – has never met since she was appointed in 2015 nor has any “legal or fiduciary responsibilities” within the organization.

“In fact, since I was asked to join, I have never received any information about CPLC-NM,” she wrote in an email. “I understood the advisory board to be a paper board, like many nonprofit organizations have – it had no authority nor responsibility for the operations of CPLC-NM.”

“I have served on many Boards where my responsibilities were greater, and they are listed as well (on her campaign flier),” she said.

Gonzales was among a group of people who attended a Washington Nationals baseball game in the nation’s capital with Romero and others on the coalition’s tab last year. The game tickets were among the expenses later deemed improper when controversy over the coalition’s finances emerged. Gonzales said he was in Washington, D.C., for a Republican task force gathering.

Romero faces write-in a candidate Heather Nordquist – a supporter of incumbent House 46 Rep. Carl Trujillo, whom Romero defeated in the June Democratic primary – in the November general election.

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