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Taxpayer at center of probe identified

SANTA FE – The identity of the taxpayer at the center of an investigation into Taxation and Revenue Secretary Demesia Padilla was revealed Thursday by an online news site.

A spokesman for the tax department did not dispute that Harold’s Grading & Trucking of Bernalillo is the taxpayer mentioned in an email the agency released last week to news outlets, but blasted the New Mexico Political Report for divulging the name.

Although the company’s name was blacked out in the email distributed by the Taxation and Revenue Department, the online news site apparently deciphered it by brightening the image on a computer screen.

“The fact that a left-wing 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,” TRD spokesman Ben Cloutier said in a statement.

Cloutier was referring to Auditor Tim Keller, whose office oversaw a preliminary investigation into whether Padilla inappropriately pressured employees to give preferential treatment to a taxpayer she had previously worked for as a CPA.

Keller’s office has turned the investigation results over to the office of Attorney General Hector Balderas.

The tax department released the email last week in an apparent effort to defend Padilla, who also cited it in an interview. The October 2014 email, from one department official to another, said, in part, “This audit has not received any special consideration from the audit staff. Thank you for your support with this difficult and uncomfortable issue.”

Harold Dominguez, president of Harold’s Grading & Trucking, said in a Thursday interview that he was a client of Padilla’s private tax firm a “while back,” though he did not say specifically when.

But he disputed seeking or receiving any preferential treatment from the Taxation and Revenue Department in recent years, saying, “I pay my taxes.”

“She’s never helped me with anything,” Dominguez added, referring to Padilla.

According to the New Mexico Political Report, the trucking company got an assessment from tax officials in October 2014 that it protested in late January. It lost the protest last month, the news site said.

Justine Freeman, deputy chief of staff for Keller, said it would be “deeply troubling if the Taxation and Revenue Department released confidential information about any taxpayer.”

She said her office has been careful not to release information regarding the taxpayer’s identity.

Freeman also said the email released by the tax department “appears to confirm a pattern of staff being placed in difficult and uncomfortable situations by the alleged attempts to pressure employees to give preferential treatment.”

According to the Auditor’s Office, the investigation – which includes audio recordings – concerns events that occurred both before and after the date of the email.

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