The top attorney for the state’s Taxation and Revenue Department recently resigned from the cabinet-level agency.
Brad Odell, TRD’s chief legal counsel, “informed the department that he will be leaving to pursue a good opportunity with a large law firm,” according to Lorissa Abeyta, a legal assistant with the agency.
NM Political Report confirmed Odell’s resignation through a public records request with TRD after Odell and department spokesman Ben Cloutier didn’t return phone calls and emails for two days earlier this week.
Odell’s actions came under scrutiny in a preliminary investigation that concluded TRD Secretary Demesia Padilla may have abused her power by helping a business during a tax audit by her agency. Padilla’s actions, according to the report, may have led to retaliation against TRD employees and lost the state money.
The report, commissioned by State Auditor Tim Keller and conducted by Albuquerque-based McHard Accounting Consulting, says Odell “appears to have participated in Secretary Padilla’s attempts to gain special treatment for her former client.”
The report, the results of which were released this summer, says Odell advised TRD employees “to give differential treatment in the form of waived penalties for” Harold’s Grading & Trucking, a Bernalillo-based business for whom Padilla previously did accounting work.
In July, State Auditor General Counsel Sarita Nair filed a complaint against Odell with the Disciplinary Board of the New Mexico Supreme Court based on information from the McHard report.
Citing the report, Nair contended that Odell appeared to use his office “to legally maneuver” the Harold’s Trucking audit “for special consideration, including the potential abatement of taxes, penalties and/or interest.”
The Disciplinary Board, however, declined to sanction Odell and actually praised Odell for making “a clear rejection of the Secretary’s alleged attempt to forgo the normal assessment process” for the Harold’s Trucking audit.
But the board did raise concerns about Odell allowing Padilla to write an affidavit in support of her former client as part of the audit.
Padilla ended up writing a letter asking for an abatement, or reduction, of tax penalties for Harold’s Trucking. While TRD has defended her actions, multiple certified public accountants have said Padilla shouldn’t have inserted herself into the audit and instead had someone else handle the case.
During the summer, Keller also accused Odell and others at TRD of obstructing the McHard investigation by initially telling employees not to cooperate.