Executive's liquor expenses in question
March 06, 2018 06:29 PM
ESPAÑOLA, N.M. -- A northern New Mexico coalition executive director is being questioned over her travel, entertainment and alcohol expenditures on taxpayer’s dime.
The Regional Coalition for the Los Alamos National Laboratory Communities is a board of elected and tribal officials who advocate for economic development and nuclear cleanup.
On Monday, board members were scheduled to discuss the renewal of Executive Director Andrea Romeo’s contract and what can be considered acceptable travel expenditures under the coalition’s bylaws but did not take action over concerns if the board was adhering to the New Mexico Open Meetings Act.
Still, the Friday notice regarding the Monday meeting was enough to notice for nearly a dozen people to attend.
According to Regional Coalition of LANL Communities bylaws, prohibited expenditures include entertainment and recreation and alcohol.
Receipts suggest that Romero spent $1,850 for dinner for 16 at the pricey Washington D.C. Italian restaurant Casa Luca using taxpayer funds. Out of the $1,850, $380 was spent on liquor.
Romero claimed she did not know alcohol was a prohibited expenditure.
"First and foremost, we were in stewardship to the mission of our organization [and] convening as a board in Washington D.C.," Romero said. "Essentially this was an oversight both by my company and the coalition."
Romero told 4 Investigates that the dinners and beverages were part of discussing coalition business. Lucero defended the expenses.
"Because it wasn't totally itemized, there was a perception made by certain people that I may have had alcohol. It was for three people $72 in Washington D.C.," she said. "Believe me, that was pretty cheap."
Receipts also reveal that Romero purchased 12 Major League baseball tickets for a Braves at Nationals game last September in Washington D.C., totaling to $307.
A expensed receipt for a meal at the Bull Ring in Santa Fe last August shows $286 was spent on food while $97 was spent on Tito’s vodka, Tanqueray, Grey Goose martinis and Natura Rose wine.
Romero insisted that the meetings were necessary to discuss business.
"Again, in compliance with our meetings we invited guests as well as our coalition members," Romero said. "As far as being a private contractor, as far as what the organization was committing to do, were convenings of the board and doing what we were committed to do by the board."
After learning that the bylaws prohibited being reimbursed for alcohol, Romero said she will reimburse taxpayers.
"As far as alcohol expenditures, I take full responsibility as a company," Romero said.
Though the Regional Coalition of LANL Communities did not renew Romero’s contract, it doesn’t mean she can’t be rehired. At this time, the board will discuss possibly reopening the bid for consultant services contract. Regional Coalition of LANL Communities will also be reviewing their travel policy as well as executive director compensation and perks when it reconvenes on March 16.
CORRECTION: In an earlier version of this story we reported Los Alamos County Councilor Chris Chandler, Santa Fe County Commissioner Henry Roybal and Ron Lovato of the Ohkay Owingeh Pueblo went to Washington D.C. on the trip in question. Chandler, Roybal and Lovato were not part of the delegation. We regret the error.
Updated: March 06, 2018 06:29 PM
Created: March 05, 2018 08:45 PM
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