Three outgoing county officials attended a budget conference at the Hyatt Regency Tamaya Resort and Spa last week, continuing a pattern of lame duck travel at county expense.
Commissioners Nicklos Jaramillo and Andrew Chávez attended the budget conference Nov. 7 and 8, as did treasurer Evangeline Romero. Chávez lost a bid for reelection in the June Primary. Jaramillo and Romero will term out at the end of the year. Registration for the conference was $125 per person. Rooms for conference attendees were $89 a night. At least nine county employees and officials attended the conference.
Chávez told The Taos News he attended the conference to contribute his knowledge and experience to discussions on budget preparation and the relationship between the county and the state. “I’m an active participant. I ask questions and participate in the discussion and that’s why I attended,” Chávez said.
Apart from his registration fee, Chávez said he was asking to be reimbursed an additional $180 for mileage and per diem.
Jaramillo and Romero did not return messages for comment. Taos County did not confirm if Jaramillo or Romero had yet requested reimbursement by press time.
Last month, The Taos News reported that Jaramillo billed the county $554 to attend a training designed specifically for jail employees. Jaramillo has collected more than $4,000 in travel expenses this year.
The Taos News filed a public records request seeking all Taos County checks that had been written to the current county commissioners. The county produced a list showing that Jaramillo had collected $34,625 for travel over his 10 years as a commissioner. The list did not include at least two checks written to Jaramilllo that appear to be connected to his role with the Hondo-Seco Volunteer Fire Department (See related story on page A1). Travel reimbursements are in addition to the commissioners’ compensation of about $41,000 a year, including benefits.
State law prevents lame duck elected officials from traveling outside the state, but does not limit in-state travel. The law does not apply to officials who cannot seek reelection because of term limits.