BY MAIRE O’NEILL
Regional Coalition of LANL Communities treasurer Los Alamos County Councilor David Izraelevitz told fellow Council members Tuesday evening that it is a “very perilous time” for the RCLC.
Izraelevitz reminded Council that the RCLC is roughly 50 percent funded through a Department of Energy Environmental Management grant and that because of some of the issues in prior reimbursements and so so forth, the grant has been on hold.
“We’re getting close to the end of the fiscal year, so the RCLC is going to have to make some decisions about how it will be able to continue funding itself with the uncertainty of whether this grant will be available or not.,” Izraelevitz said. “We’re in the midst of doing that and we had some very serious conversations at the last RCLC meeting about what the impact of a reduced budget would be.”
He said a major expense is the executive director so one issue may be to reduce the hours allocated to the executive director until the grant issue is resolved. The contract for executive director services is currently held with Chicanos Por La Causa and the executive director is Eric Vasquez. The RCLC pays CPLC more than $15,000 a month for those services.
On the other hand, Izraelevitz said the RCLC received some indications in a copy of a letter from DOE-EM to Sen. Martin Heinrich that “showed some promise about trying to resolve this issue” and also in a letter from DOE-EM to Vasquez specifying some additional information they would like to receive.
“So at least we’re hoping to have some emergence of the final steps that need to be done so that we can go forward,” he said. “I have to say this is a very perilous time for the RCLC which is especially difficult given the mission of the RCLC which is so compelling about making sure that we have sufficient funds to advocate for example for sufficient funds for environmental cleanup. And the President’s proposed budget had a 45 percent reduction for cleanup for LANL legacy waste.”
Izraelevitz said he just wanted to alert the Council that these are “kind of serious times for this organization”. He noted that he had made a presentation to the board on a regional capital outlay fund Los Alamos County is hoping to manage through the RCLC for projects in member communities. He said there was a positive response from the board and that County Attorney Alvin Leaphart is currently preparing a memorandum of understanding to discuss with RCLC’s legal counsel on how to move forward.
“That’s where we are on that organization. There is some rays of hope on the horizon given the most recent communications but we’re showing we’re not out of the woods for this organization. I hope to be able to report more positive progress at our next meeting or in the next few months,” Izraelevitz said.
Councilor Antonio Maggiore said he had seen mention of the former RCLC executive director Andrea Romero being told to repay some funds.
“Is this going to help put the RCLC on a better footing with the DOE?'” he asked.
Izraelevitz responded that there is some question about some travel and business expenses and whether or not they were reimbursable.
“My understanding is that the maximum of that questionable sum is about $10,000 and the former executive director has already reimbursed about $2,000 so there’s a maximum of about $8,000 and it’s really questionable as to whether those were allowable or not meaning that under one interpretation the per diem reimbursement that the executive director would have been permitted a certain level of reimbursement,” he said. “So there’s some question as to what the value is but I believe the maximum is about $8,000.”
Izraelevitz said the RCLC board discussed with legal counsel the possible costs of litigation and court fees to try and recover certain amounts or not.
“The board decided that what was the most appropriate decision for its fiduciary responsibilities was to send a letter to Ms Romero who was our past executive director detailing these issues and requesting reimbursement for any of the remaining funds. And the board decided that was as far as it would go and I think legal counsel agreed that if we went any further we would expend the $8,000 very quickly,” he said.
Izraelevitz said that is not an existential issue to the function of the RCLC.
“I think that we’re trying to show fiduciary responsibility about these items. This seemed like the appropriate next step to take but it certainly wouldn’t be responsible to expend $50,000 in legal fees to have apparent victory of recovering a certain amount of money which may or may not add up to $8,000,” he said. “I think the board has really tried hard to work with our auditor to identify what are the issues that led to this confusion, to these unallowed expenses, changing our bylaws, changing our financial processes, changing our policies and procedures and when the auditor came back and told us all the findings (and several were repeated from year to year), we went through each one of them and validated with them that according to our current bylaws and policies and procedures that this could not occur again if we follow those procedures. Essentially we’re doing the right thing.”
Reports from the April 24 RCLC meeting referred to by Izraelevitz are below:
A report on the DOE-EM correspondence may be found here.
The next meeting of the RCLC board is slated for May 15.