Nutting faces additional charges, Cal Fire bill
Supervisor Ray Nutting will face additional charges going in to his Monday arraignment.
Last week the El Dorado County District Attorney’s Office added seven misdemeanors related to a $20,000 personal loan Nutting received from Doug Veerkamp of Doug Veerkamp Enterprises, who has a contract with the county; $50,000 from Kitty Miller from, Nutting’s personal administrative assistant; an $8,000 loan from Catherine Tyler, a deputy clerk with the Clerk of the Board of Supervisors; and Nutting’s attempt to obtain a $10,0000 loan from Chuck Holland of CHI Monitoring, who is also under contract with the county. As an elected official, Nutting is prohibited from borrowing or taking funds from people who work at the county offices or have contracts with the county.
The charges are all for alleged actions taken on May 28 — the same day Nutting was arrested.
Nutting will be arraigned at 1:30 p.m. on June 10 in Department 1 on these and previous charges: failure to report income, failure to recuse himself from voting on county matters in which he had an interest and filing false documents — four felonies in all.
In addition to facing charges, Nutting also faces a large bill from Cal Fire for extinguishing a five-acre blaze on Nutting’s Happy Valley Road property in Somerset Jan. 21. Nutting had been burning fuel piles as part of a Cal Fire grant project and told investigators that he and the group helping him stepped away for about 15 minutes for lunch. They returned and discovered a wildland fire. His son Tyler and Kathleen Nelson, a tenant on Nutting’s property, both called dispatch to report the fire.
It was later determined that hot embers had traveled up the slope near the four burn piles, causing the fire.
“Property damage was confined to forest resources and land owned by Ray Nutting,” the report by Cal Fire Investigator Chris Anthony read. “The fire did not escape to the land of another. Powerlines and power poles in the fire area were threatened but not impacted by the fire. A residential structure at the top of the fire was threatened but not damaged by the fire. No injuries to the public or fire personnel were reported.” A trailer with fuels, tools, water and chainsaws was also damaged.
When asked, Nutting said he had informed the county Environmental Management Department of the burn piles and his intent to burn, and that the county Air Quality Management District also knew about it. However, a daily record from the Air Resources Board shows that Jan. 15-22 were all no burn days. Nicholas Umemoto of the Environmental Management Department also confirmed Jan. 21 was not a burn day.
It was not the first time Cal Fire responded to out-of-control fires on Nutting’s property.
“Yesterday a fire occurred at the Nutting Ranch (seems like an annual event and somehow I always end up there),” wrote Battalion Chief Mark Brunton in an e-mail to Unit Chief Kelly Keenan. “He was burning on a no burn day in an area that he has under (the California Forest Improvement Program). The fire ended up burning five acres in timber. Most of it was understory with some torching. The fire, although a slow rate of spread with some runs (mainly heavy dead fuel load and topography driven on a South aspect) burned pretty well. What stopped the forward progress was a road. Had the road not been there it would have impacted a mobile home in its path.”
Nutting, Bruton wrote, was also very worried about the cost of Cal Fire’s assistance.
“During suppression activities Ray Nutting was, to put it bluntly, a pain in the rear to our suppression personnel giving them direction on fire control activities since he was the ‘land owner,'” Bruton stated. “I eventually got to face to face with him and had a discussion on responsibilities of the land owner and the fire suppression personnel. This was no different than past experiences with him. He eventually backed off. During the event he would constantly stop me and ask questions regarding how many personnel were there, how many engines, the fact that we did not need a dozer, etc.”
The District 2 supervisor also e-mailed Cal Fire Forest Patrick McDaniel multiple times with concerns regarding cost, and whether the grant money would still come through after burns that were supposed to be covered by the grants got out of control — making him liable for the costs. “As you know I am being punished with the cost of putting out the fire,” Nutting wrote in one e-mail. “This project was the only way for me to transition the ranch back into timber production,” which he had not done in a decade, calling the land a “money pit.”
Another Cal Fire report noted that there had been 11 incidents, mostly medical calls, at Nutting’s ranch from Jan. 12, 2009, to Jan. 21, 2013. Two of those calls were wildland fires. There were also fire calls on June 20, 2001, and June 20, 2002, according a report and an e-mail from Cal Fire’s Bill Smith to Anthony in 2002.
Cal Fire Information Officer Daniel Berlandt confirmed on Friday that Cal Fire would be seeking the fire suppression costs for the January fire.
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