Nutting hearing cut short; judge steps aside
Supervisor Ray Nutting’s first court appearance began with a recusal as El Dorado County Superior Court Judge Daniel B. Proud stepped down from the case due to a conflict of interest. Nutting coached Proud’s son in wrestling.
Nutting and his attorney David Weiner will next appear in Judge Warren Stracener’s Department 9 courtroom at 8:30 a.m. Thursday.
Nutting had no comment after the hearing, instead directing media to attorney David Weiner, who said despite his client’s best efforts the case will likely proceed.
“No matter what he does,” Weiner said, “they want to turn around and stick it to him.”
Nutting was arrested on May 28 after El Dorado County District Attorney Vern Pierson filed felony charges against him for failing to disclose income, filing false documents, perjury and failing to recuse himself from votes in which he had a financial interest. The charges followed a months-long investigation into Nutting’s participation in Proposition 40 fuel reduction projects on his south county property, for which he received state grants from the Sierra Coordinated Resource Management Council.
The District 2 representative allegedly failed to report grant income, as well as other income earned, on financial disclosures required of public officials.
Weiner noted that Nutting had filed Form 700 amendments regarding his income to correct the problems. Nutting met with investigators three times without counsel, wanting to help resolve the issues, the attorney added, saying, “He cooperated through the whole thing.”
The state’s Attorney General is joining the DA in the prosecution.
A second round of seven misdemeanor charges filed last week are related to Nutting’s activities the day he was arrested and posted bail.
Nutting allegedly borrowed $20,000 from Doug Veerkamp of Doug Veerkamp Enterprises, who has a contract with the county; $50,000 from Kitty Miller, Nutting’s personal administrative assistant; $8,000 from Catherine Tyler, a deputy clerk with the Clerk of the Board of Supervisors. Nutting also reportedly tried to obtain a $10,000 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.
“Yeah, I think we have that covered,” Weiner said of the bail. “In fact, the bail we have now is legal.”
The bail was put up by Kitty Miller, Nutting’s personal assistant. “It’s her money,” he explained.
When it is exonerated or replaced by a bail agent, the money will go back to her. The money from Doug Veerkamp, Weiner added, was sent in by wire transfer but returned the same day. He had cancelled checks to prove it, but did not produce them. The same happened with Catherine Tyler, a clerk with the Board of Supervisors.
“It was an emergency situation,” Weiner said. “Friends and associates sent in money.”
Miller, he said, wasn’t asked to loan the money and did it of her own free will, withdrawing from her and her husband’s account. She gave a receipt to Nutting’s wife, Jennifer, who sent it to the county jail to confirm it was Miller’s money.
Weiner said he believes the misdemeanor charges where just there to add charges to the case. “It wasn’t a loan in the sense of the term in the code section,” he said.
As for the judge’s recusal, it was expected, Weiner said. He said any judge in the county could take it or recuse themselves, and that it was possible the case could go out of county or see an outside judge come in.
In addition to facing a judge, Nutting also faces a large bill from Cal Fire for extinguishing a five-acre blaze on Nutting’s Happy Valley Road property in Somerset last Jan. 21. Nutting had been burning fuel piles as part of a Prop. 40 grant project and told investigators he and the group helping him stepped away for about 15 minutes for lunch. They returned and discovered a wildland 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 chain saws were also damaged.
Nutting said he informed the county Environmental Management Department of the burn piles and his intent to burn, and that county Air Quality Management District officials also knew about it. However, a daily record from the Air Resources Board shows that Jan. 15-22, 2013, were all no burn days. Nicholas Umemoto of the Environmental Management Department also confirmed Jan. 21 was not a burn day.
The January incident was not the first time Cal Fire responded to out-of-control fires on Nutting’s property. 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 the report.