- Associated Press - Monday, July 27, 2015

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) - New Mexico’s state auditor has surfaced in a California legal fight involving a former employee of a Native American consulting firm.

Court documents say State Auditor Tim Keller was improperly paid to help the company win contracts from Native American clients, the Albuquerque Journal reported (https://bit.ly/1IAXwRQ ).

Keller’s name is mentioned in a counterclaim filed by the defendant in the case, Nikishna Polequaptewa, a 33-year-old Hopi activist and a former senior strategist at Blue Stone Strategy Group LLC, based in Irvine, Calif.

Keller is not involved in the lawsuit and denied last week ever soliciting work for the firm, where he worked as a financial analyst from the summer of 2009 until last fall.

Polequaptewa’s attorney, Michael Khouri of Irvine, told the Journal that according to his client, Keller would get 5 percent to 10 percent of the proceeds of each contract he won for the firm. Khouri said he didn’t know what contracts his client was discussing.

Polequaptewa is being sued by Blue Stone for breach of contract and computer fraud in federal court in California. He resigned from the firm last year.

The lawsuit says Polequaptewa improperly accessed the firm’s computer system and misappropriated emails about trade secrets, customer information, and other protected data for his own gain or to harm Blue Stone. Polequaptewa denies any wrongdoing.

Polequaptewa has been under investigation by the FBI, which was called to investigate computer intrusions discovered by Blue Stone last year, according to court filings in the case.

Keller represented Senate District 17 in Albuquerque from 2009 until he took office as state auditor in January.

He told the Journal last week that he was a midlevel manager in the consulting firm, which helps tribes and pueblos across the country in the areas of planning, community development, finance, real estate and corporate governance.

Keller said he had little interaction with Polequaptewa, who worked in California.

“This is a sad, baseless, partisan misrepresentation of Blue Stone and me; and obvious retaliation from the Republican Party for shining a light on abuse of power in the governor’s administration,” Keller said.

Publicity around the lawsuit comes after Keller recently announced New Mexico Taxation and Revenue Department Secretary Demesia Padilla was subject of an investigation into potential criminal activity.

Republicans dismissed his claims as politically motivated.

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Information from: Albuquerque Journal, https://www.abqjournal.com


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