Whitman's hubby responds to immigration lawsuit

Jessica M. Karmasek Oct. 1, 2010, 1:11pm


SACRAMENTO (Legal Newsline) - The husband of California gubernatorial candidate Meg Whitman said Thursday that "it is possible" he received and wrote notes on a letter from the Social Security Administration regarding the couple's former housekeeper.

But Griff Harsh denied any implication of associated wrongdoing, arguing the letter had no indication of Nicky Diaz Santillan's immigration status.

"It is important to note what this letter actually says: 'this letter makes no statement about your employee's immigration status,'" he said in his statement.

The former eBay CEO came under fire this week after Diaz Santillan made allegations that Whitman knew she was an illegal immigrant while she was employed.

Diaz Santillan worked for Whitman and her husband for nine years before being fired in 2009 when she allegedly approached Whitman about her immigration status and asked for help in becoming a U.S. citizen.

In a news conference earlier Thursday, Whitman said she and her husband had never received a letter from the Social Security Administration regarding Diaz Santillan's citizenship and that the allegations were a "political smear."

Harsh, in his statement, said, "While I honestly do not recall receiving this letter, as it was sent to me seven years ago, I can say it is possible that I would've scratched a follow up note on a letter like this, which is a request for information to make certain Nicky received her Social Security benefits and W-2 tax refund for withheld wages. Since we believed her to be legal, I would have had no reason to suspect that she would not have filled it in and done what was needed to secure her benefits.

"The essential fact remains the same, neither Meg nor I believed there was a problem with Nicky's legal status and I certainly don't recall ever discussing it with my wife, nor did I ever show her any letter about it. The facts of this matter are very clear: Ms. Diaz broke the law and lied to us and to the employment agency. When she confessed her deception to us last year, we ended her employment immediately."

He continued, "Meg and I played by the rules and followed the law. Ms. Diaz did not. If, as she claims, she received this letter and note of inquiry from me, she never answered my request to look into this. Instead, she choose to continue her deception. This entire matter is a sad one and it's timing is clearly the result of a calculated and cynical political smear by Meg's opponents."

In another news conference held on Thursday following Whitman's, Diaz Santillan's lawyer, Gloria Allred, unveiled a letter she claimed proves Whitman and her husband were aware of their employee's immigration status.

Allred, a well-known discrimination attorney, said that a handwritten note across the bottom of the letter, reading, "Nicky, please check this, thanks," was Harsh's writing. The housekeeper, who was familiar with his handwriting, confirmed it was his, Allred said.

"They are the employers, and the letter clearly indicates it is the employers' duty to return the completed letter to the government," Allred said at the news conference. "Meg Whitman is exposed as a liar and hypocrite."

From Legal Newsline: Reach Jessica Karmasek by e-mail at jessica@legalnewsline.com.

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