By Timur Abimanyu, SH.MH
Lawyer: Whitman's husband saw ex-maid letter
Calif. candidate says she never saw letter indicating former housekeeper's illegal status
By JULIET WILLIAMS, MICHAEL R. BLOOD
SANTA MONICA, Calif. — Meg Whitman's campaign for governor was thrown into turmoilThursday as the Republican sought to fend off new evidence that she knowingly had an illegalimmigrant housekeeper on her payroll for nearly a decade.Whitman denounced the allegations as a "baseless smear attack" by Democratic challenger Jerry Brown in what has become a dead-heat race five weeks before the election.The central issue is whether Whitman knew about a letter that the Social SecurityAdministration sent her in 2003 that raised discrepancies about the housekeeper's documents — a possible tip-off that she could be illegal.The letter is the foundation for claims by former maid Nicky Diaz Santillan that Whitman andher husband knew for years she was in the U.S. illegally, but kept her on the job regardless.For two days, Whitman forcefully denied receiving any such letter and said she fired the $23-an-hour housekeeper last year immediately after learning she was illegal. But Whitman'shusband changed course Thursday after a letter surfaced with what appeared to be hishandwriting, forcing him to say he may have been aware of the correspondence back in 2003.The husband's shift only served to intensify the uproar in a contest that until now been focusedon serious issues such as job creation, government spending and education in a state with a $19 billion deficit and 12.4 percent unemployment.