Romei Trial, Day 5 + Courtroom Blog

P. David Romei took the stand in his own defense Monday, attempting to provide explanations for the money he spent and obtained as Arts Council director.

Romei, accused of theft and misappropriation of funds when he was with the Arts Council, provided his explanations to defense attorney Richard "Racehorse" Haynes when it came to all the charges against him.

The most serious charge pertains to Romei allegedly taking $7,400 that was put in a change order to a City of College Station contract. The order was to pay for lighting at a statue, but a local electrician did the lighting for free.

Romei explained to the jury that then-City Manager Tom Brymer knew the lighting would be done for free, and allowed Romei to have the money to compensate him for previous consulting on various, unrelated city projects.

On the subject of trips Romei used Arts Council money to pay for, the defendant said three of the four instances in question -- a trip to his father's funeral, one to his grandmother's funeral, and trips for family members to come to the Veterans Memorial opening -- were honest mistakes that he didn't reimburse the arts for them.

With regards to the fourth instance -- a trip to Europe Romei took with roommate and subcontractor Stanton Ware and Romei's niece, Stephanie -- Romei said he conducted business for the Arts Council while there, including visiting museums for ideas to better promote local art.

With regards to $1,510 worth of medication Romei purchased with arts money, he said reasonable purchases of medicine were allowed in his contract.

But Romei is also accused of reimbursing himself for that same amount. The defendant said in this case, he had accidentally used the arts council card instead of one of his own, and then mistakenly reimbursed himself.

Romei is also accused of reimbursing himself for campaign contributions to four candidates. In three cases, Romei admitted to doing so, but upon consultation with attorney Gaines West shortly after those donations, he no longer did that because it was described to Romei as "shady area."

On a $1,000 to the campaign of Governor Rick Perry, Romei said he had made that donation with personal money. He claimed he was seeking reimbursement for an unrelated dinner party he had helped throw, so he attached the Perry check to the arts files so auditors would be able to check the flow of money.

For a $5,000 reimbursement for a personal donation to the A&M Foundation that was never received, Romei said he had written a check, but failed to send it. He said he would get a reimbursement from the arts and put it in his back account to make sure it had enough in it to make the donation, and then send it off. In this case, he said he forgot.

On another Foundation donation reimbursement, this one $3,450 that the Foundation never received, Romei said he had no intent of making such a donation. He claimed it was mislabeled as a donation in the Arts Council system by an employee handling bookkeeping duties during a transition period for that position.

The defense had not completed questioning Romei when the proceedings ended for the day. That will resume at 8:30 a.m. Tuesday. The state will question Romei once the defense completes its questions.

Also taking the stand Monday were Arts Council board members Carol Wagner and Becky Russell.

Much of the questioning with the two was in reference to "questionable" material involving current Arts Council Director Padraic Fisher, material Romei allegedly took to District Attorney Bill Turner for Turner to look in to for possible legal issues.

Wagner and Russell discussed the timeline of events when it came to receiving and discussing the Fisher material, and their look at the Arts Council's records for possible crimes by Romei.

In his opening statements early Monday morning, Haynes claimed there were political motivations in the bringing of these charges.

The state immediately rested its case as the day began.

For more on how the day went, check out the play-by-play in the blog below.

For a recap of the fourth day, click here.

For a recap of the third day, click here.

For a recap of the second day, click here.

For a recap of the first day, click here.

Live Blog - Follow the Trial as it Happens w/ Steve Fullhart

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