Sunday, October 3, 2010

How Meg Whitman Was Ambushed by Her Maid

While candidates and appointees (and presumably average citizens) continued to get caught violating immigration and tax laws, most people with political aspirations towed the line. It was in this environment six years later that Nicandra Diaz Santillan, also in the United States without documentation, provided her prospective employers, GOP candidate for California Governor Meg Whitman (then CEO of eBay), and her neurosurgeon husband, Griffith Harsh, with a Social Security number not actually assigned to her. Miss Diaz, who had come into California from Mexico, assured the couple she was legally available to work. (They were introduced though an agency that had also asked for and received documents she would need to complete the I-9 form.)

The new employers withheld taxes from Diaz' salary ($17,940 in 2002) and provided an annual W2 form to their employee. When the name Nicandra Santillan and the number she provided did not agree with agency records, the Social Security Administration wrote Whitman and Harsh in 2003 asking for more information. The couple gave their housekeeper the letter and asked her to clarify and resolve the matter ("Nicky, please check this. Thanks').

Apparently, after that handoff, she kept the letter and it fell off their radar and was forgotten. The matter faded away until, as Whitman stated last month, "Nicky came to us in June 2009 and confessed that she was an illegal worker."

She asked her employers for "help" legalizing her status several months after Whitman began exploring her interest in the top state job. Meg Whitman and her husband by all indications behaved legally but were nevertheless misled. As most people would, they trusted the person who they paid to clean their toilet.

When the housekeeper confessed she'd been lying, Whitman "immediately terminated Nicky's employment." Saying "it was one of the hardest things I've ever done," Whitman added she "considered Nicky a friend and a part of our extended family."

For her part, Nicky claimed in a tearful press conference that Dr. Harsh was, er, harsh when she broke the news ("Dr. Harsh was very angry and said, 'I told you, I told you she was going to bring us problem") and now claims her former bosses still owe her overtime wages and mileage reimbursement.

In their 2nd public debate Saturday, Whitman accused her opponent for the governor's office, California attorney general Jerry Brown, of orchestrating the scandal. Momentum for the accusations and suspiciously timed revelations seem to be the spotlight-seeking work of Diaz' lawyer, Gloria Allred. (Allred is known for inserting herself into high-profile disputes.) Whatever her motivation for the explosive betrayal, Diaz' own actions now put her at risk for arrest and deportation.

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