There is always a motivating reason for a person’s behavior. Unless they are psychotic, and then that becomes the reason.
The former Brazos Valley Arts Council director, P. David Romei, is charged and is on trial for felony theft. By all accounts that I have read and heard is that his fingerprints are all over the cookie jar. And yet he pleads innocent. His lawyer, the “legendary Texas attorney” Richard "Racehorse" Haynes, asked him Wednesday whether he ever intended to steal from the Arts Council, its donors or the government.
"Never, never, never, never," Romei answered. "It is beyond me."
And you know what? That is a truthful statement from his perspective. For most of us, we would connect our actions with fault at some point along the way. Romei is apparently unable to make that jump which is why he is adamant about his lack of guilt.
I am speculating here, but I think I have a pretty good guess as to why he can evoke Gods name, swear to tell the truth, and then sit there as if he is being wronged by society. In his mind, everyone that has accused him is wrong and is out to get him, a “witch hunt” he calls it. He would never steal, he only took what he believed was owed him for his services. To us he stole, but not to himself.
His testimony is telling to how his mind works.
Romei said that such financial maneuvering was necessary because many people did not understand the most effective way to run the agency. As an example, Romei said, some people might be upset if the Arts Council purchased an $1,100 pen as a gift for a $10,000 donor. The purchase was necessary, however, because it kept the Arts Council in the donor's good graces and brought in a net gain of $8,900, he said.
"There was no intent to be deceptive," Romei said. "If a board member didn't understand something, they might make a big deal out of it."
He was doing business the way that business had to be done. There was no deceit, just attempts to avoid the hassle of trying to explain to the uniformed how the game was played. I mean after all, look at it from his perspective, there was a net gain not a net loss – stealing results in the taking of something – a loss. $8900 is not a loss. The fact that the board might not see it this way does not negate the truth that he gained money for the program.
His behavior is predicated on the simple fact that he did not take anything more than what is normally offered to others in similar cases, nor did he directly go against the board’s orders. Nor did he leave the Arts Council in bad financial shape – heck he improved it from a $300,000 budget and assets worth about $40,000 to an annual budget and about $1.8 million in assets when he left in 2005. Wow – and look at all the art he brought into the area, and the big beautiful building he got built, I mean really – Romei was the Arts Council – in fact the freaking building is named after him for Pete’s sake.
There was no distinction in his mind from the man and the entity. It was successful because of him so any money destined for the Arts Council really was destined for him too. It was only fair that they both be rewarded. As his lawyer stated:
Romei's work was greatly appreciated by most people involved in the Arts Council and displayed a $900 crystal bowl that was presented to him from the board of directors as he left the organization. “When you compare the amount of work Romei has done for the community to his personal expenses, the personal expenses are "close to zero. It is not a crime."
And that is how the man’s mind works. There was no deceit, no theft, and when you compare the pittance he is accused of taking to all the good he did, it was probably an underpayment anyway. I’m telling you the man is a saint.
"The evidence will show that Dr. Romei was all about work, integrity and accountability," Haynes said. "He is the epitome of patriotism and he lives by the word of God."
Except that one about “thou shalt not steal”