As the Regional Coalition of LANL Communities (RCLC) sinks day by day into a deeper financial morass it’s time to also take stock of its political and moral being and call for its demise.The Santa Fe New Mexican has been doing a good job of reporting on the financial transgressions that have been revealed since Northern New Mexicans Protecting Land, Water and Rights (NNMProtects) first filed for documents via an “Inspection of Public Records Act” request in 2017. In a letter to the board members of the RCLC and to Los Alamos County, its fiscal agent, the officers of NNMP raised questions about expenditures and reimbursements made by RCLC members and executive director Andrea Romero on travel to Washington D.C. Specifically, the letter questioned expenditures on alcohol, baseball tickets, and a first-class airfare ticket. The letter also questioned contract payments made to Romero (she worked for RCLC under Andrea Romero Consulting) by Los Alamos County that seemed to indicate over payment.Since that time, an audit by Los Alamos County found violations of travel policies and questionable mileage reports while a state audit found that the RCLC violated not only the coalition’s policies but also state law, to the tune of $51,000, from 2014 to 2018.
Then, in an independent investigation by Albuquerque Adams + Crow Law Firm, there was a possible attempt by Los Alamos County, the fiscal agent, to revise documents to conceal thousands of dollars of unlawful reimbursements of meals, liquor, and other spending.
Even before the state audit came out Simonich got at the heart of the issue by questioning the very existence of the RCLC: “U.S. Sen. Tom Udall, D-Santa Fe, a member of Congress for 19 years, has more insight and influence regarding lab projects than the coalition ever could. Udall and the rest of the congressional delegation also have staffs whose jobs depend on staying on top of the lab’s failings, hazards and economic opportunities.” This is exactly what I referenced Greg Mello saying in my La Jicarita article on the potential of pit production at LANL: there are enough high powered people lobbying for money for LANL that no one is bothering with RCLC town and county representatives.
Why are we wasting money—$200,000 a year, half from federal taxpayers and the rest from taxpayers in the region—on an ineffective lobbying group, and most egregiously, on a lobbying group from which there is no accountability? The mission statement of the RCLC states: “The Regional Coalition is a conduit for Northern New Mexico communities to make a direct impact on local, state and federal government decision-making in regional economic development and nuclear cleanup at Los Alamos National Laboratories (LANL) [emphasis added].” There is absolutely no proof that the RCLC has ever made a “direct impact” on “nuclear cleanup” at LANL: the current LANL budget calls for 1.7 billion dollars or 69.8% of funding for nuclear weapons activities, while only 188 million dollars or 7.6% are allocated for environmental cleanup.