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Council refuses to excuse Larry Romero’s absence again

For the second time, El Paso’s city council refused to excuse City Representative Larry Romero’s absence.

Romero suffered a stroke in December in the midst of an ethics investigation and resigned in February citing health issues.

Despite that, he continues to collect his paycheck because a provision in state law dictates he is still the representative for the district until his replacement is sworn in.

City Rep. Claudia Ordaz said council can stop Romero’s paycheck if they decline to excuse his absences three times.

Tuesday, Rep. Peter Svarzbein was absent. Ordaz made a motion to excuse Svarzbein’s absence but not Romero’s. Representatives Michiel Noe, Cortney Niland, Lily Limon and Ordaz voted Yes. Representatives Emma Acosta and Carl Robinson were not present during the vote.

When ABC-7 asked Romero in April why he does not simply return the pay, he told reporter Maria Garcia he doesn’t plan to do it. He said that if the mayor and other city representatives returned their pay for any meetings they missed, he would, too.

City representatives earn $29,000 per year.

Not only are taxpayers covering the salary for a representative who resigned in February, they are also paying for a special election to fill his vacant seat.

The May 7 election will cost taxpayers about $41,000. A crowded field of eight candidates could lead to a runoff election, making the price tag about $80,000.

Romero was reprimanded by the city’s Ethics Review Commission in April after it concluded he violated the city’s ethics ordinance when he added streets and alleys to a list of areas that needed repaving, securing a privilege for himself.

The reprimand was the highest penalty the commission could impose given that Romero had already resigned from his position.

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