As you likely know, Larry Romero submitted his answers to the Ross Fisher questions via facsimile on March 15, 2016. The thing that stands out the most about Romero’s answers is the obvious unwillingness to be specific with his answers. I would argue that his lack of specificity allows him some “wiggle room” in case the issue is referred for prosecution in the future.
In addition, there were two very important questions that were completely ignored by Larry Romero in his answers. These are important questions that the ethics commission should endeavor to compel Larry Romero to answer properly.
The first question labelled “c” by Ross Fisher asked “Did you have any communication (conversations, emails, text messages, telephone calls, etc.) with Hinojosa pertaining to the language or terminology to be included in the FA-RFQ? If so, please describe in detail those conversations.”
There was a second question labelled “c” by Ross Fisher. It asked “Did you believe that your comments at the City Council meeting of July 22, 2014 were sufficient to direct Gonzalez to issue the FA-RFQ? If so, please state in detail what led you to that belief?”
Romero answered: “Yes. Because of the ballpark financing problems, I felt that the majority of Council was not satisfied with the current Financial Advisor.”
The problem is that Ross Fisher asked two questions labeled “c”.
Obviously, Romero addressed the second “c” in his response and completely ignored the first, and more important question. I am hopeful that the ethics commission, in its upcoming April 26, 2016, meeting will direct Larry Romero to answer the first, and most important question.
The second duplicated question is “l”. The first “l” asked “By seeking the issuance of the FA-RFQ, did you improperly use our [sic] official position to secure unwarranted privileges for or from Hinojosa? If not, please state in detail why not.”
The second “l” asked “By seeking the issuance of the FA-RFQ, is it reasonable for one to reach the impression that you could improperly influence Gonzalez in the performance of his official duties? If not, please state in detail why it is not.”
Romero answered; “Not reasonable.”
Again, obviously he is answering the second “l”. Even then, Romero does not follow up with a detailed explanation of why he believes what he does, as requested by the investigator. The letter “m” is also a repeat of the second “l” in the Ross Fisher questions.
In regards to the installation of the Stanton Street Speed Cushions, Larry Romero wrote in his written responses that “On Christmas Eve of 2015, I sent an email to Rep. Niland about the request…I did talk to her and relayed the request from Cathedral.”
As far as I know, no one has asked Cortney Niland to confirm the receipt of the email from Romero and what role, if any she played on the speed cushions. This is something that the ethics commission should also look into.
Yesterday, I submitted a request for a copy of the email that Larry Romero states that he sent Cortney Niland on December 24, 2015. I will follow up once I receive a response from the city.
In answers to the final two questions, in regards to the speed cushions, Larry Romero writes that he “did not request the installation,” adding “because it was not” in his district.
This leaves the question open as to who actually ordered the speed cushions that have now been removed. Was it Cortney Niland, as Romero insinuates, or was it Tommy Gonzalez.
As social media commenters and the El Paso Times has pointed out, although the Ross Fisher report specifically asked for detailed questions, Larry Romero provided no detail in his responses.
More importantly, the two most important questions were ignored by Romero. Whether this was intentional we may never know. However, the typographical errors give him an opportunity to argue that he answered the questions that were submitted to him.
The ethics commission has the opportunity to ask Larry Romero for answers to the two important questions. The commission should also ask what role, if any, Cortney Niland played in the speed cushions to clarify what Larry Romero has stated in his answers. Niland could verify Romero’s assertions, or disprove them. Either way, it should be important for the ethics commission to verify Romero’s answers.