Lawyer in Whitman flap mum on details, party ties

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LOS ANGELES (AP) — Republican Meg Whitman’s former maid said Tuesday she’s not a Democratic pawn in California’s race for governor, but her attorney refused again to provide key details about her claims that Whitman employed her for nearly a decade despite knowing she was in the U.S. illegally.

Nicky Diaz Santillan, a Mexican who Whitman says used a fraudulently obtained Social Security card and California driver’s license, dismissed claims by the GOP nominee that she was part of a Democratic smear intended to damage Whitman’s standing with voters, particularly Latinos.

“I make my own decisions and I am not anyone’s puppet,” Diaz Santillan said in a prepared statement she read at the Los Angeles office of her attorney, Gloria Allred. “Nobody made me do it.”

Allred, who has longtime Democratic ties and donated money to Brown when he ran for attorney general , has yet to disclose details about how she became involved in the case or disclose who, if anyone, is picking up the bill for her legal work.

Allred says Diaz Santillan was referred to her by another lawyer, whom she will not name. Allred didn’t answer directly when asked if that lawyer had ties to Whitman’s opponent, Democrat Jerry Brown, or his Democratic allies.

Allred also sidestepped a question about whether she had any contact with labor unions working to get Brown elected.

“I’m not going to play any kind of guessing game,” Allred said. When asked about a union link, she said she would need more details before responding.

Diaz Santillan has not taken a single question from reporters during three public appearances since last week.

The allegations upended the contest last week and forced Whitman to hold an unusual, hour-long news conference in which she answered an array of questions about Diaz Santillan, who cleaned her Silicon Valley home for nine years.

Largely at issue is whether Whitman knew about a 2003 letter from the Social Security Administration that raised discrepancies about her housekeeper’s documents — a possible tip-off that she could be in the U.S. illegally. Whitman says she didn’t learn about Diaz Santillan’s illegal status until told by her maid in June 2009, and she promptly fired her.

She has given conflicting answers about the letter: she first said — repeatedly — she never received it, then disclosed that her husband might have seen the letter and jotted a note on it telling the housekeeper to “please check this.”

At a debate in Fresno last week, Whitman accused Brown’s campaign of engineering the disclosures and sacrificing the maid “on the altar of your political ambitions.” Brown urged Whitman to acknowledge she made a mistake.

“You have blamed her, blamed me, blamed the left, blamed the unions. But you don’t take accountability,” Brown said.

Meanwhile, Diaz Santillan filed a claim with state regulators saying Whitman owes her $6,200 for time she worked or as reimbursement for mileage while running errands.

Whitman spokesman Andrea Jones Rivera said in a statement: “It’s time for Gloria Allred to pack-up this circus and leave town.” Brown’s campaign declined comment.