Capitol Alert

Ousted state worker files claim after alleged threat from tax board member

In this Wednesday, July 2, 2014 photo, warning flags hang on the parking garage of the State Board of Equalization building in Sacramento.
In this Wednesday, July 2, 2014 photo, warning flags hang on the parking garage of the State Board of Equalization building in Sacramento. AP

A former executive at a California tax agency is appealing his recent termination, alleging that he was punished for cooperating with criminal and financial investigations into the Board of Equalization.

Mark DeSio, the agency’s former communications director, alleges in his complaint that he was threatened by elected Board of Equalization Member Jerome Horton for providing information to auditors.

“I only need one more vote to take you out,” Horton said to DeSio, according to DeSio’s complaint.

Horton denied the allegations, and said DeSio had asked for his help finding a new job. “I had nothing to do with his termination,” Horton said in an emailed statement.

DeSio identified himself in his complaint as a source for the March audit by the Department of Finance that prompted lawmakers to gut the Board of Equalization, transferring almost of its responsibilities and employees to a new tax-collecting department.

DeSio was dismissed last month by the director of the new department, Nick Maduros. The California Department of Tax and Fee Administration declined to comment.

DeSio is asking the State Personnel Board to reinstate him and raise his pay. The complaint also could lead to a lawsuit at a later date, his attorney said.

As communications director, DeSio supervised employees in Sacramento and around the state at different Board of Equalization offices.

He reported to auditors and to criminal investigators from the state Department of Justice that some of those employees had been misused by the agency for promotional events that had little to do with tax collection, according to his complaint.

DeSio in his complaint said that other Board of Equalization executives warned him that he was risking his job by attempting to cut the amount of money the agency spent on promotional events. In January, he sought to limit that outreach spending to $800,000 a year for each of the BOE’s four elected members.

Board members lost almost all of their authority in July when the state created the new tax-collecting department.

DeSio felt he was unwelcome at executive meetings for the new department, where he believes that others blamed him in part for the agency’s downfall.

So far, he’s the only high-ranking former Board of Equalization executive to lose his job in the new department.

“It just shows that there was a culture at the BOE that seems to have transferred right over to the new department,” said his attorney, Mary-Alice Coleman.

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