El Dorado County District 2 Supervisor Ray Nutting may have more conflicts of interest to explain, according to District Attorney Vern Pierson.
“Last week our office discovered that District 2 Supervisor Nutting applied to be certified for Public Housing (Section 8), Housing and Urban Development as a landlord for property he owns in El Dorado County,” Pierson wrote in a letter to Board of Supervisors Chairman Ron Briggs.
County staff “correctly” rejected the request on Aug. 31, 2010, due to “statutory conflict of interest.”
Pierson continued, “As a supervisor (Nutting) also sits on the Public Housing Authority, and the federal regulations state that no member of the PHA is eligible to receive Section 8 funds as a landlord.”
Records indicate that Nutting used his position to appeal to the then-director of the county Health and Human Services “who serves at the will of this board,” Pierson wrote, and, using his official letterhead, Nutting sent a letter to regional HUD Director Stephen Schneller seeking a waiver “of an obvious conflict of interest. It appears the waiver was never granted under federal law; even if it had been, there is no such waiver of Section 1090 violations under state law.”
In the letter Nutting wrote, “I have a home in Grizzly Flat that I have owned for four years. My current renter is leaving and I have advertized (sic) my home for rent.” A response to his ad asked if the home would qualify for Section 8, and Nutting said he was “willing to help her with much-needed housing.”
“However, I have a conflict of interest as an elected official. My intent is to eliminate the conflict by not voting on any issues dealing with Section 8 housing in El Dorado County. This is a very small part of my overall responsibilities. Most of the votes case on this matter are solely to pass through revenue for overall programs. Who is allowed in the program or not is handled at the eligibility determination level and not at the governing board level.”
He added that he would abstain from voting due to a conflict of interest as long as the renter using his house as Section 8 housing remained there.
Pierson said he sent the letter to Briggs “So that you can take the actions you consider appropriate.” He noted that, at an arraignment hearing for Nutting in South Lake Tahoe, “Mr. Nutting sought and obtained a postponement of his case even though they were provided discovery and grand jury transcripts in early June and despite the fact that deputy attorney general Peter Williams attempted to set the case for trial. While any defendant is entitled to file all appropriate motions, it is now becoming clear that this case is going to go on for a long time.
“Given the pending charges and this new information and Supervisor Nutting’s seemingly cavalier attitude toward conflicts of interest, I felt an obligation to advise the board,” Pierson continued.
Nutting told Village Life he was simply doing a favor for a single woman with children who wanted to rent one of his properties, even though he already knew what the answer was going to be.
“She could only pay with Section 8,” he said, so he told her in 2010 that he would check, knowing he would be denied.
“(The ) District Attorney issues a press release like I was a criminal” Nutting said adding that he thinks Pierson is “trying to chastise me for doing what I was supposed to do.”
The fact that Pierson, with the help of county Auditor Joe Harn, pressed charges originally is “shocking behavior,” Nutting added. He maintains the charges against him are more about politics than any alleged wrongdoing. Nutting is accused of filing false documents, failure to disclose income and having a financial interest in a county contract.
Pierson, in the letter, called Nutting “desperate” for rent money.
Nutting said he didn’t need the Section 8 money, he just wanted to help a single mother with children. “It’s Vern Pierson that’s desperate,” Nutting said. “I had lots (of people) calling to rent the house.”
Pierson, however, paints a different picture of how Nutting inquired about Section 8 housing. “It was multiple comments over a two-week period,” Pierson said, as Nutting went up the chain of command.
Pierson had documents, redacted to protect the name of the single mother, showing that the first contact was Aug. 31, 2010. The following day, the internal notes stated, it was determined that he was not qualified to make his property Section 8 as it would be a conflict of interest due to Nutting serving on the Board of Supervisors and voting on Section 8 matters.
Contrary to Nutting’s claim that he knew this would be the outcome and was simply doing a favor to the woman, the internal notes from county Health and Human Services show Nutting sent a letter — attached to the notes — on Sept. 13, two weeks after the initial contact, requesting a waiver to make Section 8 housing possible.
“He had repeated contact, up to the department head,” Pierson said. “It was over a two-week period, trying to get staff to help. He was told it was against the law and, two weeks later, he asks for the waiver.”
Pierson noted that his staff interviewed HHS staff who handled Nutting’s request. “They said he ‘wouldn’t let it go and appeared obsessed with getting around the rules,’” Pierson quoted.
Pierson scoffed at Nutting’s allegations that the charges filed against the supervisor were politically motivated. Nutting has previously said he was targeted because he backed Sheriff D’Agostini in the 2010 election while Pierson and Harn backed candidate Craig Therkildsen. Pierson noted that he and D’Agostini have been personal friends for 16 or 17 years.
“We had a fight; it became public during the sheriff’s race,” Pierson said, explaining that the argument had nothing to do with D’Agostini as a candidate, but with campaign supporters. “We continue to be friends, we have a very good working relationship. Frankly, he’s doing a fantastic job, and I have told him so.”
If the case was politically motivated, Pierson asked, why is the Attorney General’s Office involved in the joint prosecution of the case? Why were they involved in the Grand Jury hearings? He noted Deputy Attorney General Peter Williams attended the recent attempted arraignment. It has nothing to do with personal politics, Pierson reiterated, and everything to do with Nutting breaking laws.
“His allegations,” Pierson concluded, “are silly and desperate.”
Nutting returns to court on Sept. 20 at 1:30 p.m. in Department 3 in South Lake Tahoe for a hearing regarding a demurrer and a 995 motion to dismiss charges.