Supervisor ordered out of office
June 9, 2014
PLACERVILLE – El Dorado County Supervisor Ray Nutting, recently found guilty of six government code misdemeanors for accepting illegal, undocumented loans, was ordered removed from office Friday by Judge Tim Buckley.
Buckley also sentenced Nutting to three years of probation and 30 days in jail, but said that Nutting could do community service or other alternative service rather than go to jail.
Nutting left the courtroom without saying a word. His supporters in the courtroom called the judge's decision "unbelievable."
Nutting accepted the loans from two county employees and Douglas Veerkamp, a construction contractor who does business with the county. He used the money to post bail after being ordered to turn himself in for four felony charges El Dorado County District Attorney Vern Pierson filed against him.
Nutting was found not guilty on three felony charges, which alleged that he did not report income from government agencies that he used to pay for brush-clearing on his property and voted on contracts in which prosecutors maintained he had a conflict-of-interest.
The jury hung on a felony charge that Nutting filed a false document. Prosecutors declined to retry Nutting on that charge so sentencing could occur but said they reserve the right to re-file the charge against him in the future.
Nutting's defense attorney David Weiner asked for a new trial and argued the money Nutting received to post bail did not constitute loans and was paid back within a matter of hours. "It was never intended as a loan. These were friends who came to his aid to help him out in a time of duress," Weiner said.
The argument did not sway Buckley. Buckley said the money was clearly a loan because it was intended to be paid back. He also called it inappropriate to solicit money from a person contracting with the county.
"That's a problem," Buckley said, adding that Nutting's actions raise concerns about dual allegiance and conflicts of interest on a Board of Supervisors that often votes on large contracts.
"What Ray Nutting did was misconduct in office," Buckley said. "I will send notice to the Board of Supervisors that there will be a vacancy in the office after this proceeding."
After the court hearing, Weiner said the trial has been hard on Nutting and his family and that he will appeal Buckley's decision to order Nutting out of office.
Nutting's former campaign manager, Dan Dellinger, said concerns about dual allegiance or conflict of interest were a red herring because of the county's open bidding processes and his ability to recuse himself from votes. "The whole time the district attorney wanted to get Ray Nutting off the Board of Supervisors and that's what this is all about," he said.
Other members of the Board of Supervisors had asked Buckley to determine if Nutting should be removed from office for the government code misdemeanors. They put their county business on hold until Buckley weighed in.
In a press statement, Pierson said his office and the California Attorney General's Office tried to resolve Nutting's case and save taxpayer money by offering Nutting to plead guilty to the six misdemeanor counts and step down from office. "Defendant Nutting rejected this offer and made no counter offer," he said.
Supervisors are scheduled to discuss the matter in closed session Monday. Typically, they would call for a special election to fill the empty seat. But they will also discuss whether that election can be consolidated with the November general election.
"We decided we would wait to see what the judge said. Now we have a ruling from the judge and the seat has been vacated, so we have to go through the policies, processes and procedures," District 5 Supervisor Norma Santiago said.