State Auditor Wayne Johnson on Monday announced plans for a special audit of the Regional Coalition of LANL Communities, a public agency that has been in the spotlight since an audit conducted by Los Alamos County raised what Johnson’s office called “serious concerns about travel and entertainment reimbursements, including reimbursements for alcoholic beverages, baseball tickets, and first class flights using taxpayer money, possible double reimbursements, and procurement issues.”
The coalition of nine cities, towns, counties, and pueblos near Los Alamos National Laboratory was founded in 2011 as an advocacy organization. The announcement likely means more scrutiny of former executive director Andrea Romero, a Democratic candidate for the state Legislature.
“There are enough concerns here to warrant a close look by an independent public accountant to make sure that all state laws were followed in the expenditure of public money,” Johnson said. “We have seen expenditures for items like baseball tickets and $28 for a single glass of ‘Whistling Pig’ whiskey. We don’t know the full story, but an independent audit will reveal if there are violations of the law and a misuse of public money.”
The audit will also look to see if coalition board members and/or Andrea Romero Consulting LLC received double reimbursements for mileage, per diem, or other expenditures, the statement said.
Romero told the board earlier this month that she believed she was in compliance with established policy and protocol, saying “It was the practice of the organization, prior to me joining, to pay for board meals, including alcohol. I did not know that alcohol was prohibited, and for that I apologize.”