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Meg Whitman Denies Wrongdoing in Hiring of Housekeeper

Republican gubernatorial candidate Meg Whitman today sharply denied allegations that she knowingly employed an illegal immigrant for nine years as a housekeeper, calling the accusation part of a smear campaign orchestrated by backers of Democratic candidate Jerry Brown.

“Make no mistake, these allegations are completely untrue,” Whitman told reporters at a Santa Monica news conference. “They lack any merit whatsoever.

“This is truly a political smear on me, on my family and based on lies, and it is designed to divert attention from the issues that really matter to California voters.

“You know what? Our state is in a fiscal crisis. We have 2.3 million people without a job. Our K-through-12 education system is now rated near the bottom of all 50 states. And what are we talking about here?

“We’re talking about a distraction. We’re talking about things that are not on point to the crisis that most Californians … face. And I think that Californians deserve a debate on the real issues, not a distraction based on the tawdry politics of personal destruction.”

Representatives for the Brown campaign could not be reached for immediate comment.

Nicky Diaz Santillan, Whitman’s former housekeeper held a news conference Wednesday with attorney Gloria Allred, claiming Whitman knew she was not in the country legally. She also contends she was “emotionally and financially abused” during her employment.

Allred said that during the woman’s years of employment, Whitman caused her “to feel exploited, disrespected, humiliated and emotionally and financially abused.’

“The relationship was terminated last year by Ms. Whitman for what appeared to be political reasons involving Ms. Whitman’s decision to run for governor,” Allred said.

Allred contended that Whitman knew her client was an illegal immigrant, but kept her employed until she decided to run for governor.

Allred claimed that the Social Security Administration sent Whitman a letter in 2003 informing her that there was a conflict with Santillan’s reported Social Security number, but Whitman ignored it.

Whitman denied receiving such a letter. She claimed Santillan had all of the proper documentation when she was hired, and the family had no indication that she was an illegal immigrant.

Brown campaign spokesman Sterling Clifford said Wednesday the Santillan case “has shown that she (Whitman) thinks the rules don’t apply to her.”

“After more than a year of Whitman demanding immigration policy that ‘holds employers accountable,” we learn that accountability doesn’t extend to her own actions,” Clifford said.

“From the start, Meg Whitman has failed to tell Californians the truth — about her voting record, her positions on climate change, her history of conflict with staffers or about Jerry Brown.’

Whitman had harsh words for Brown and his campaign today, accusing them of exploiting Santillan for political gain.

“Now, I think there’s only two questions left in this matter,”Whitman said.

“First, Attorney General Brown issued a statement yesterday criticizing my actions. And I would ask our state’s chief law enforcement officer what he thinks I should have done instead. Ignore what I was told by Nicky and break the law?

“I would be interested in what Jerry Brown says he would have done in a similar situation, and frankly I think Jerry Brown should be ashamed of what his allies have tried to do here.

“Perhaps Jerry Brown has been in politics too long to know any other way to do politics, and this is a baseless smear attack and he should be ashamed of himself.”

Whitman said she considered Santillan, who worked for her from 2000 to June of last year, “a great employee and an extended member of our family.”

“When she confessed to us that she had falsified her employment documents and hiring records way back in 2000, we were surprised and shocked. We saw Nicky as a part of our family.”

Whitman said she had no choice but to fire Santillan, calling it “one of the hardest things I have ever had to do.”

“My family and I loved Nicky, but she had lied to us for nine years, and more than that, she had broken the law, and the facts are as simple as that,” she said.

At Wednesday’s news conference, Allred claimed Santillan was not paid for all of the hours she worked, and said she would be filing a claim against Whitman with the State of California, Department of Industrial Relations, Division of Labor Standards Enforcement.

Fighting back tears, Santillan told reporters she approached Whitman and said she didn’t have “papers to work here’ and needed help.

Santillan said Whitman later left her a voicemail message saying she could not help her, adding, “From now on you don’t know me, and I don’t know you. You never have seen me, and I have never seen you. Do you understand me?”

Allred also said her client knows the risk that she is taking and said that Whitman may try to retaliate against her, using her power, money and influential contacts.

The Whitman campaign noted that Allred donated $1,000 to Brown in 1982 and $150 to Brown in 2006.“

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