A battle between two prominent members of the Hispanic community has left in limbo the future of one of the valley’s oldest political advocacy groups.
Fernando Romero and Marlene Monteolivo are each claiming to be the rightful president of Hispanics in Politics, a nearly 30-year-old nonprofit that registers voters and lobbies for comprehensive immigration reform, among other activities.
Monteolivo issued a news release Wednesday announcing that HIP is under new leadership and that Romero, an activist and the organization’s leader for the past four years, is misrepresenting himself as its president.
Romero, meanwhile, said in a statement that Monteolivo is “attempting to hijack HIP” and has no authority in the organization.
The tug-of-war began early this year. HIP had missed a deadline by which it was required to submit annual paperwork and fees to the secretary of state’s office. In January, Monteolivo submitted a new list of HIP officers — with herself as president and director – and paid the organization’s fees.
Romero “is no longer associated in any way with the official” HIP organization, the release said, adding that any use of the HIP name by Romero “constitutes fraudulent use of the name.”
Romero said that the missed deadline was an oversight and that Monteolivo wasn’t authorized by HIP to file any paperwork with the state related to the organization. Monteolivo “is not the properly elected head of” HIP, and “her (membership) dues were not even current at the time that she usurped alleged leadership” of the organization.
When asked about the matter, the secretary of state’s office cited a section of Nevada law that states “the name of a corporation whose charter has been revoked … or whose existence has otherwise terminated is available for use” by others.
HIP, under Romero, has obtained attorneys. Romero has continued holding HIP events and speaking as its president.
Reached Thursday evening, Monteolivo said she decided to distribute a news release because Romero continued “to misrepresent himself” after being told that she now controls the HIP name.
Romero is “making it sound like it was a hostile takeover, but you can’t have a hostile takeover of a defunct organization,” she said.
Because HIP is now hers, she has every right to name herself its president, she said.
Monteolivo said she was a member of HIP for a single year several years ago.
Romero is well-known in local political circles and often quoted by the media concerning Hispanic issues.
The monthly HIP breakfast he hosts — at Doña Maria Tamales downtown — draws local movers and shakers. Politicians are invited to speak, and Clark County Commissioner Chris Giunchigliani announced her candidacy for Las Vegas mayor there.
Last year, Romero was reported to be the first to float the idea of forming a “Tequila Party” for Latinos frustrated by Democrats’ inaction on immigration reform and feelings of being ignored by political leaders. The idea drew international attention, and the National Tequila Party Movement was launched from Arizona in May.
The bad blood between Romero and Monteolivo predates their battle for control of HIP. Monteolivo, once a coordinator for the Unity Council — an organization whose aim was to raise money for voter education and registration — sued Romero over $6,580 the organization raised several years ago.
She gave the money to Romero for safekeeping, she said. Romero contends the money was given to him for voter registration efforts and asserts that is how it was spent.
A Las Vegas Justice Court decision dated March 31 ruled against Monteolivo, saying she had given the money to HIP, which was not a party in the lawsuit. “Since plaintiff has not sued proper party … this court finds in favor of defendant,” it said.
Monteolivo has appealed the decision. It wouldn’t make sense for her to sue HIP now, she said, because she is at the helm.
She didn’t pursue taking over the HIP name “consciously as revenge” over the money, she said, but “now I’m glad that I did.”
The Hispanic community “needs to have better representation,” she said. “I intend to unify the Hispanic community.”
It’s unclear how and when either matter will be resolved.
But Romero made a promise: “HIP has been around for 30 years, and it will be around for another 30.”
Contact reporter Lynnette Curtis at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-383-0285.