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Former Deputy Director of California Tax Agency Claims He Was Fired for Whistleblowing

Posted  October 25, 2017

By the C|C Whistleblower Lawyer Team

Mark DeSio, a former deputy director of the state Board of Equalization who was fired on October 12, has filed a whistleblower complaint and appeal with the state Personnel Board seeking reinstatement to his position.  DeSio asserts that he was fired for cooperating with a California Department of Justice investigation into allegations that the Board misused public resources.

The Board of Equalization, the public agency charged with tax administration and fee collection, has been under intense scrutiny for at least a year.  In April, Governor Jerry Brown initiated a Justice Department probe into allegations that Board employees misused state resources by assigning high-paid tax auditors to improper tasks such as directing traffic for community events promoting elected board members.  Brown also cited “serious problems” of mismanagement identified in a state Department of Finance audit of the agency.  At Brown’s prompting, the state legislature voted in June to break up the troubled Board, reassigning most of its workforce to a new Department of Tax and Fee Administration.

In his Personnel Board complaint, DeSio alleges that the agency was rife with nepotism and the improper hiring and use of employees before it was split.  He alleges that agency officials “improperly orchestrated the hiring” of a man whose wife worked for a top manager at the agency; “misused” 30 information officer positions as personal staff for board members; and overruled him when he refused to hire 10 new call center employees from funds not set aside for that purpose.

DeSio provided information about the Board to the Department of Justice and other state agencies, including the Fair Political Practices Commission, for over a year.  According to DeSio, he had reported additional improprieties to Department of Justice investigators mere days before his termination.