POLITICS

Whitman Settles with Housekeeper for Chump Change

Nicky Diaz Santillan, right, and her attorney Gloria Allred, left, smile as they leave a hearing in San Jose, Calif., Wednesday, Nov. 17, 2010. Diaz Santillan, the illegal immigrant housekeeper who helped derail Meg Whitman's gubernatorial campaign, took her case before the California Department of Industrial Relations. She claims the former eBay CEO and billionaire owes her $6,210 in unpaid wages and mileage reimbursements accrued during the nine years she spent as the Whitman family's housekeeper. (AP Photo/Paul Sakuma)

Nicky Diaz Santillan, right, and her attorney Gloria Allred, left, smile as they leave a hearing in San Jose, Calif., Wednesday, Nov. 17, 2010. Diaz Santillan, the illegal immigrant housekeeper who helped derail Meg Whitman's gubernatorial campaign, took her case before the California Department of Industrial Relations. She claims the former eBay CEO and billionaire owes her $6,210 in unpaid wages and mileage reimbursements accrued during the nine years she spent as the Whitman family's housekeeper. (AP Photo/Paul Sakuma)

Meg Whitman’s price tag on her gubernatorial campaign? $140 million.

Her settlement with the housekeeper she fired? $5,500.

Settling with a formerly trusted employee for the price of a used car? Priceless.

That sums up Whitman’s settlement with Nicky Díaz Santillán. The former California gubernatorial candidate and her husband, Dr. Griffith Harsh IV, did not admit any wrongdoing while agreeing to the settlement at a two-hour meeting at the California Division of Labor Standards Enforcement.

The settlement reimburses Díaz Santillán for unpaid wages but not the mileage she said she was owed when she ran errands for the family, including picking up their dry cleaning and driving Harsh to the airport. It also does not call for any penalties that could have been assessed for late payment.

Still, Díaz Santillán’s attorney, Gloria Allred, was happy with the outcome even though she initially asked for up to $10,000.

“The larger message is that if you’re Meg Whitman or a small employer or anyone else – if you hire someone, you need to pay them the wages for the hours that they worked,” Allred, known for representing celebrities, said.

Whitman, a former eBay CEO, had portrayed herself as tough on immigration and had proposed fining those who employed undocumented immigrants. It was later revealed that Díaz Santillán was here without documents, and Whitman did not turn in to immigration authorities.

The discovery – uncovered just months after announcing her gubernatorial intentions – opened Whitman up to criticism that she set different standards for herself.

The controversy dominated the gubernatorial debates between her and Democratic challenger Jerry Brown, with both candidates engaging in a testy exchange about the matter. It also cost Whitman support from the voters she needed to compete with Brown — independents, Latinos and the Republican base.

The settlement, announced Wednesday, put into perspective Whitman’s spending priorities. For the amount of her campaign, Whitman could have, say, bought the entire population of Florida a free movie ticket (18,537,969).

She could have also bought enough gas for Díaz Santillán to have circled the globe 71,088 times at 35 miles per gallon in her car (that’s a lot of airport trips). 

In fact, Whitman could have settled with 25,455 housekeepers, more than enough people to take care of the 791 homes she could have bought in the U.S. at a median price of $176,900.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

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