December 16, 2016

Our coverage of Demesia Padilla’s alleged abuse of power

Part of the search warrant that resulted in the resignation of Taxation and Revenue Department Secretary Demesia Padilla mentioned her alleged abuse of power in a case referred by the State Auditor.

Here are the stories NM Political Report wrote about this from last year.

  • Auditor finds possible abuse of power in Tax and Rev: Allegations revealed by the state Auditor found that (at the time) unnamed top officials in TRD could have given improper preferential treatment to a taxpayer in New Mexico. State Auditor Tim Keller referred the investigation to Attorney General Hector Balderas. A spokesman for TRD said the letter from Keller was political and, “We believe these are nothing more than unsubstantiated claims that are being driven by disgruntled former employees, who either work for the State Auditor or were fired for sexual harassment, and now they have an ax to grind.”
  • TRD secretary named in investigation: A letter to Gov. Susana Martinez from State Auditor Tim Keller revealed the allegations of abuse of power surrounded Taxation and Revenue Department Secretary Demesia Padilla.
  • State Auditor: TRD tried to ‘obstruct’ investigation: Keller said Padilla and TRD encouraged staff not to talk to auditors and obstructing the investigation. TRD spokesman Cloutier said Keller’s claim was “absolutely outrageous” and that auditors never interviewed Padilla herself. “That very fact just goes to show that this is nothing more than a media stunt with the only purpose of advancing his political career,” Cloutier said in a statement.
  • Botched redaction reveals company in probe of alleged preferential treatment: TRD released an internal email to the media purporting to show that Padilla did not give her former client special treatment. But poor redactions in the email reveal the name of Padilla’s former client, Bernalillo-based Harold’s Grading & Trucking. Harold Dominguez, the owner of the company, denied receiving any special treatment.
  • TRD plays blame game after releasing taxpayer name: Though TRD botched the redaction, Cloutier laid the blame on NM Political Report for “publishing taxpayer return information despite the clear intent that it remain confidential.” New Mexico Foundation for Open Government President Greg Williams disagrees. “I don’t think you have a responsibility to return it or something like that,” Williams told NM Political Report in an interview. “I think the responsibility lies with the party that’s producing it.” Cloutier also dismissed reporter Joey Peters in the Albuquerque Journal and Santa Fe New Mexican as “a leftwing blogger manipulated the public record to out the small businessman.” Cloutier calls the investigation into Padilla “manufactured political theater led by the most partisan state auditor in New Mexico history.”
  • Tax dept. head wanted to aid former client during audit: Emails released to NM Political Report show that when TRD was in the process of auditing Harold’s Grading & Trucking, Padilla wanted to write an affidavit supporting tax deductions the company had made. The emails appeared to confirm a pattern of attempting to pressure employees to give preferential treatment to the company.
  • ‘IDIOTS’: TRD attorney criticized agency for botched redaction: Internal emails show that TRD was the party responsible for not properly redacting information on a taxpayer return. One email obtained by NM Political Report revealed comments from one of TRD’s own attorneys, who wrote, “I have been telling the Department for years that we are not redacting documents properly.”
  • Complaint against Tax. Dept. lawyer adds details to scandal:  An ethics complaint filed by the State Auditor General Counsel against Brad Odell, TRD’s lead attorney, appears to show his involvement in alleged abuse of power at the department. Though the Disciplinary Board of the Supreme Court of New Mexico took no action against Odell, the complaint includes reference to audio recordings that document his participation in Padilla’s attempts at gaining special treatment for her former client.
  • Report: FBI looking into Tax and Rev audits : Federal agents subpoena the Taxation and Revenue Department amid allegations that the state was targeting former members of the Martinez administration who fell out of favor with retaliatory tax audit.
  • Letter asked Guv to address concerns about TRD Secretary: A letter from unsigned employees at TRD asks Gov. Susana Martinez to hold Padilla to “the highest ethical and professional standards.” The letter accuses Padilla of pressuring her staff “to overlook audit findings and to suppress tax investigations of her friends and clients.”
  • Sec. Padilla tried to help former client with tax audit: Documents confirm that Padilla requested to her employees that her former client, Harold’s Grading and Trucking, not have to pay punitary tax fees.
  • CPA: Padilla should have referred former client to other accountants: NM Political Report spoke to a CPA about why her conduct in the Harold’s Trucking audit was unethical and what she could have done to avoid this.