MONUMENT – On Monday night the Monument Board of Trustees discussed whether there’s a conflict of interest among one of its members.
Trustee Laurie Clark is challenging Trustee Jim Romanello’s eligibility to remain on the board as she claims “concerned residents” have come forward with information purported to prove he no longer lives within town limits and can no longer represent the voters. She was asking the board to consider having Romanello recuse himself from further discussions on the issue due to a perceived conflict of interest.
Romanello strongly defended his eligibility by stating his family lives in Monument and he owns a rental property in Colorado Springs. Other board members questioned who is making the claims.
According to Clark, the “concerned residents” came forward with information on mortgage history, trash records, registered letters, car registration and more as proof Romanello has moved into a home in Colorado Springs.
The town ordinance states a candidate for the office of trustee must live in the town for 2 consecutive months prior to the election and continue living in the town while serving.
The majority of the 30-minute discussion was taken up by fellow board members asking Clark to clarify how many people have come forward, what she expects the board to take action on, and what the law says about challenging the issue.
Only Clark raised an issue with Romanello’s candidacy and eligibility to serve. Trustee Ron Stephens says he’s seen no legal opinion about where a person receives their mail as being proof of residency. He further stated he was given the opinion of an attorney who interpreted that if someone owning a home is simple enough qualification to run for office.
Trustee Kelly Elliot called the whole issue “smoke and mirrors” as she asked repeatedly for who is complaining about Romanello, questions she did not get direct answers to.
The town attorney, who is not seen on camera during the discussion, sounds a bit frustrated while explaining multiple times to Clark the legal remedy for a challenge is for a registered voter to file a challenge with the El Paso County courts. Clark stated, “I will tell these people to do that.” The town attorney did express his opinion that it is not within the board’s power to vote on the eligibility of another member’s ability to serve.
As for Jim Romanello, he remained largely quiet during the discussion with the exception of agreeing he has nothing to recuse himself from and that he planned to return to his Monument home after the meeting concluded.
During public comment that followed the discussion, Ann Howe came forward to argue against Romanello remaining on the board. “Allowing this you allow anyone to move anywhere or be from anywhere and sit on this board. That does not go to representing the residents of this town and their interests..,” Howe stated.
Howe lost to Romanello in the November election for the trustee seat by a margin of 222 votes.
Jim Romanello reserved his strong defense for the board comments section of the meeting, which is not a debate or discussion. He stated he has a vacant rental property in Colorado Springs that he is in the process of fixing up and occasionally stays there during the work, or if he needs a “fortress of solitude” while he’s writing a book.
“I have addressed this and I tell you I don’t want to give credence to something… but I can see this is very politically fueled. I live in the Village Center Estates in Monument, that’s where I’m going to be going to bed tonight with my family. That’s where my drivers license is, where I’m registered to vote, that’s where my family is..”
He then went on to accuse Howe of following him and bringing up the issue of his eligibility to serve. “She’s followed me from these meetings to my home. To my rental property. And I saw her take pictures of my car and place of business. She’s taken pictures of me on my rental property as I was doing work on it in the garage.”
“This is very politically motivated and I’m done dealing with this. This is the first and only time I’m going to address this. I’m not giving this any more time. I’m sorry you citizens have had to waste your time with this.”
No decision was made during this board meeting on the issue, other than the town attorney providing the advice that only a voter challenge to Romanello’s eligibility is the proper course of action.
(Author’s note: This story has been updated to reflect the entire range of conversation during the March 18th Monument Board of Trustees meeting)