LOS ANGELES — Meg Whitman, the former eBay chief running to become governor of California, lashed back Wednesday at a charge she knowingly employed an illegal immigrant as a housekeeper.

But a lawyer for the housekeeper countered by publicly releasing a letter to Republican candidate Meg Whitman from US social security authorities informing her that her employee appeared to have a false Social Security number.

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Whitman, locked in a tight race with Democrat Jerry Brown to succeed ex-film star Arnold Schwarzenegger, said her rival should be "ashamed" for what she called a smear.

"Make no mistake, these allegations are completely untrue," said Whitman, a former chief executive officer of online auction site eBay. "They lack any merit whatsoever.

"This is truly a political smear on me, on my family and based on lies, and it is designed to divert attention from the issues that really matter to California voters," she added.

But a lawyer for the housekeeper, Nicky Diaz Santillan, released copies of a 2003 Social Security letter she said was sent to Whitman and her husband.

"Today, we have clearly proven with the release of this letter that Meg Whitman lied to the press and the public when she said, 'We never received that letter and notification,'" said lawyer Gloria Allred.

Whitman claims she never received the letter, but Allred said it included a note scrawled by Whitman's husband asking the housekeeper to "please check this."

"Her attempt to deceive the public and hide the fact that she knew that she was employing an undocumented worker long before she fired Nicky in 2009 has failed," Allred said.

"Meg Whitman is exposed as a liar and a hypocrite."

Whitman and former California governor Brown are running neck-and-neck in polls ahead of the November 2 gubernatorial poll, due to be held the same day as vital mid-term Senate elections across the country.

The following videos, of Gloria Allred and Nicky Santillan's press conference, was posted to YouTube Sept. 30, 2010, by user GloriaAllred.