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Coalition asks for $8,000 reimbursement from legislator, former executive director

SANTA FE, N.M. — The Regional Coalition of Los Alamos National Laboratory Communities is asking state Rep. Andrea Romero, D-Santa Fe, to pay back $8,000 in reimbursements paid to her while she served as the organization’s executive director and before her election in 2018.

Rep. Andrea Romero

Romero previously reimbursed RCLC $2,200, but that was before the state Auditor’s Office released a report in August 2018 that identified 18 negative findings. Those included impermissible reimbursements for travel, meals and alcoholic beverages and lobbying activities that jeopardized funding RCLC receives from the Department of Energy.

The RCLC is a coalition of nine northern New Mexico communities – Los Alamos, Rio Arriba, Santa Fe and Taos counties, the cities of Española and Santa Fe, the town of Taos, and the pueblos of Jemez and Ohkay Owingeh – and advocates for environmental cleanup funding for LANL and local economic development efforts by the lab. It operates on taxpayer dollars provided by the DOE and the communities it represents.

The 2018 audit said that more than $50,000 in improper payments were made to Romero, members of the coalition’s board and third parties. More than half of those payments – $26,862 – went to Andrea Romero Consulting.

The Los Alamos Reporter, an online newspaper that regularly covers the RCLC’s meetings, was first to report the decision by the board on Friday to send the letter to Romero requesting reimbursement. The newspaper reported that RCLC attorney Nancy Long said that about $10,600 in reimbursements paid to Romero were deemed impermissible. The $8,000 the RCLC is looking to collect represents the approximate balance, minus the amount she has already paid.

Santa Fe County Commissioner Henry Roybal, chairman of the RCLC, said board members “felt it was our fiduciary responsibility to try to close this chapter.”

Romero said she would not comment until she had seen the letter.

Romero said in 2018 that she “did not knowingly or deliberately violate any standard for reimbursement.”

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