Ethics Commission Must Continue Investigation Into Larry Romero
As you know by now, Larry Romero apparently resigned last Friday. The El Paso Times reported the resignation via Oscar Leeser’s office. According to the newspaper, the resignation is effective last Sunday, February 7, 2016. KFOX and KTSM quoted unnamed sources at the city as the source of the resignation. KVIA was unable to confirm the resignation and instead quoted the newspaper. However, KVIA followed up with a report stating that Romero had not turned in his resignation letter.
You may have noticed that I used the term “apparently” when writing that Romero had resigned. Yesterday morning, I submitted an open records request asking for “a copy of the resignation letter submitted by Larry Romero on or before February 8, 2016.” At approximately 3:00pm, El Paso Time yesterday, I received response from Jaqueline Leyva, a legal secretary at the City Attorney’s office, informing me that the city “has no responsive documents.”
It is likely that the reports of Romero’s resignation are true but the fact remains that it is not official since a resignation letter is not in the city’s possession. Regardless, the community discussion about whether the ethics commission should continue the investigation into Larry Romero’s activities must proceed, regardless of the resignation.
Since Larry Romero’s ethics complaints were filed, a reported health issue in December, 2015, has resulted in Larry Romero being excused from city council meetings the last month. The stroke, as reported by the news media, is also the reason cited in the purported resignation.
Although I can speculate about the reasons for the resignation, the fact is that many others are also speculating and I cannot add anymore to that discussion. There is, however, some discussion that the ethics commission will drop the investigation into Romero, once the resignation becomes effective.
The El Paso Times quoted Scott Schwartz, one of the ethic’s commissioners, as stating that when the resignation becomes official, the investigation into Romero would be “moot.” The ethics investigation into Tommy Gonzalez remains open, however.
The truth is that I do not know whether the city’s ethics commission can continue the investigation into Larry Romero or not, but the fact is that it should, regardless of the resignation. The allegations of ethics violations are numerous and are directly tied into another ongoing investigation into the actions taken by the city manager, Tommy Gonzalez. Additionally, the allegations against Romero are based on actions allegedly committed while Romero was a city representative.
Romero’s resignation does not erase the actions he took while a city official. Whether the investigation reveals ethics violations or not are immaterial to the resignation because the facts need to be laid out for the community. It is important that the community understands the extent of the allegations.
To leave them unresolved leaves the door open for another opportunity to bypass city processes and possibly violate ethics rules in the future. The city’s ethics commission may no longer have the opportunity to apply sanctions against Larry Romero, if they are warranted, but to leave the allegations unanswered will just reinforce the notion that cover ups are how the city deals with allegations of corruption.