[This post was edited on October 6, 2015 at 08:46ET to correct errors in John Romero’s name.] There is a saying that makes me laugh every time I hear it because when I finally understood it, I thought I was an English guru. I just thought it for a moment, so calm down grammar police. Anyway, when there is smoke there must be fire, although it makes me smile is actually a serious description of a problem. In this case, it is about the perception of corruption in corruption-laden El Paso.
In case you missed, Cindy Ramirez reported in the local paper about how Larry Romero’s brother setup a consulting company for Tommy Gonzalez. In the article “City manager hires rep’s brother to create firm” published on Sunday, October 4, 2015, Ramirez reports that John Romero is listed as the company organizer for G2 SDI Services, LLC., a company owned by the city manager, Tommy Gonzalez and his wife.
Ramirez is clear to point out that John Romero is unlikely a company owner, but rather a facilitator for registering the company with the State of Texas. John Romero refused to tell the newspaper how much he was paid for the work.
Although everything appears legal from what we know, there are some serious problems with how it looks, especially in El Paso, where public corruption is the norm, as evidenced by the number of public figures arrested on those charges in the last few years.
As you know, Larry Romero earlier in August led an effort that resulted in Tommy Gonzalez receiving a pay raise of $61,040. (link) Many in the community were angry about the process. Larry Romero posted the agenda item and initiated the vote that gave Gonzalez the substantial raise.
Later in August, it was revealed that streets that were not on the city’s approved list were resurfaced in Larry Romero’s district. (link) Larry Romero has refused to answer directly how it is that the streets in his district were resurfaced bypassing the city’s established and approved list. The resurfacing also bypassed an authorization by city council.
Under a city manager form of government, only the city manager can direct city staff to resurface streets. Tommy Gonzalez has stated that he does not know how the decision to resurface the streets in Romero’s district was arrived at, or who made the decision.
Now we learn that Larry Romero’s brother, John Romero, was paid to create a company for Tommy Gonzalez. We do not know the amount that was paid to him.
What we do know is that:
1. Tommy Gonzalez was given an unexpected raise of $61,040 through a process that is questionable at best and was initiated by Larry Romero.
2. Streets that were not on the approved city list were recently resurfaced in Larry Romero’s district. No one can articulate how it is that those streets were designated for resurfacing and who authorized the city work.
3. Tommy Gonzalez paid Larry Romero’s brother an untold amount to create a company for Tommy Gonzalez. Other than to state that Gonzalez wanted someone “local” and that John Romero was “referred” to him, Tommy Gonzalez has not disclosed how he arrived at the decision to hire John Romero for work that many in El Paso can do for him.
On the company’s website, John Romero lists himself as a “Tax Consultant/Financial Advisor” but he does not include any credential information. I would imagine that if he were a certified public accountant (CPA), or held a financial services credential that he would list them prominently on his business website. Because of the lack of listed credentials, I can only assume that he provides general bookkeeping services.
If that were the case, why would Tommy Gonzalez, who holds various certifications, not value higher education certifications such as a CPA or an attorney to create his company for him in order to avoid potential problems with mixing city business with his private company? I can only speculate about that, but adding it to what I outlined above, it sure doesn’t smell right to me.
Regardless, in a city that has been plagued by public corruption scandals and a general distrust of government by the taxpayers, it is just plain wrong that Tommy Gonzalez would add to the ill perception of the city by his activities.
If it stinks, there must be something rotten in there somewhere.