Harold Dominguez, whose business is at the center of a probe into whether state Taxation and Revenue Department Secretary Demesia Padilla gave preferential treatment to a former client, said Thursday he didn’t receive any favors from the department.
Dominguez, who owns Bernalillo-based Harold’s Grading and Trucking, confirmed that Padilla was his firm’s accountant before Gov. Susana Martinez appointed her to head the state agency in January 2011.
A sloppy redaction in an email released last week by the Taxation and Revenue Department led to the disclosure of the name of Dominguez’s business.
“I think they should get everything straight before they send stuff like that out,” Dominguez said.
Citing state law that prohibits the disclosure of taxpayer information, Democratic State Auditor Tim Keller refused to release the name of the taxpayer at the center of an investigation by a forensic auditing firm hired by his office. Keller turned over evidence to Democratic Attorney General Hector Balderas, whose office similarly refused to identify the taxpayer.
In a June 9 letter to Keller’s lead lawyer, Sarita Nair, the Taxation and Revenue Department’s chief lawyer, Brad Odell, expressed similar concerns about disclosing confidential taxpayer information. Odell wrote that “the department has concerns that this investigation will seek disclosure of confidential taxpayer information.”
“Violations of our confidentiality laws place [Taxation and Revenue Department] employees in jeopardy of both employment and criminal sanctions,” Odell wrote.
Yet in an effort to discredit Keller, Martinez’s administration last week released an October 2014 email to media outlets. Martinez officials argued the email undercut the notion that Padilla abused the power of her public office by trying to help a former client.
In the email, Kevin Sourisseau, then deputy director of the department’s Audit and Compliance Division, wrote to a supervisor that department staff did not give “special consideration” in auditing the taxpayer. (Sourisseau now works for Keller’s office). The name of Dominguez’s business was twice redacted from the email, although Benjamin Cloutier, a spokesman for the department, told The New Mexican that the email concerned the same case under investigation by Keller.
The New Mexico Political Report, an Albuquerque-based online political news outlet, pointed out in an article published Thursday that the name of Dominguez’s business could be easily seen through the redaction.
The redaction appears to have been made with a black marker. Cloutier did not respond to repeated questions on Thursday about why the department didn’t use redaction software tools to prevent the disclosure of Dominguez’s business name — a normal practice of state agencies.
Justine Freeman, Keller’s deputy chief of staff, wrote in an email Thursday that “it would be deeply troubling if the Taxation and Revenue Department released confidential information about any taxpayer.”
The department spokesman’s only response to repeated questions about the disclosure was that, “The fact that a leftwing blogger manipulated the public record to out the small businessman underscores how this has become a pathetic example of manufactured political theater led by the most partisan state auditor in New Mexico history.”
Matthew Reichbach, editor of The New Mexico Political Report, said in an interview that the name of Dominguez’s business could be seen without manipulating or even printing the email. He said he’s never seen a case in which public officials failed to properly redact a document “and then blamed the person who wrote about it.”
Susan Boe, executive director of the Foundation for Open Government, an Albuquerque nonprofit, said, “If a public body has properly withheld information from otherwise public documents, then that information needs to be redacted with due care.”
Officials with Harold’s Grading and Trucking said during a hearing that the Taxation and Revenue Department misled them about the deadline to protest a tax assessment. The Taxation and Revenue Department twice denied the company’s appeals, online documents show.
Justin Horwath can be reached at 986-3017 or firstname.lastname@example.org.