As I wrote previously, whether Larry Romero resigns or not is immaterial to whether he committed an ethics violations while a city representative. Just like someone cannot avoid criminal prosecution for stealing from a previous job because they no longer work there, neither should Romero avoid having to answer to the Ethics Commission. Contrary to the assertions made by the El Paso Times earlier, Larry Romero’s resignation did not become effective until last Friday, February 19, 2016 when city council voted to accept it.
However, although Larry Romero wrote that he was resigning effective February 23, 2016, the Texas “holdover” provision effectively makes both Romero’s assertion of resigning on a specific date and city council’s acceptance of Romero’s resignation moot. Under the “holdover” provision, Romero still has the authority of a city representative until an election is held to elect his replacement. As an official representative, Romero is still subject to the Ethics Commission and he must be held accountable.
City council is expected to discuss the pending investigation later today. I am sure that one of the topics will be whether Romero must answer the questions asked of him by the investigator. The Ethics Commission, for its part, will also address Romero’s resignation. It is clear that although Romero has tendered his resignation, under the law he has not resigned until a replacement had been duly elected.
As such, there is no reason why the Ethics Commission cannot continue in its investigation of him.
Anything short of compelling Larry Romero to answer to the Ethics Commission will always be tainted with the stigma of a cover up. In a city, like El Paso, with multiple instances of public corruption and continued questions of corrupt practices, any notion that a cover up is being perpetuated will forestall any notion that corruption has been brought under control. Instead, an idea that a cover up is being perpetuated will prove that corruption is far from being brought under control.
For that simple reason, the Ethics Commission should do what it can to continue its investigation of Larry Romero to its conclusion.