Former El Dorado County supervisor Ray Nutting is appealing his recent misdemeanor convictions and a judge’s decision to remove him from office because of them, while his wife, Jennifer, is one of six candidates running for his old seat in a special election.
“For me to be charged with these malicious prosecutions and not challenge them is unconscionable,” Nutting said of his decision to appeal.
Nutting, who lives in Somerset, initially faced four felony charges filed by El Dorado County District Attorney Vern Pierson. After a lengthy trial, a Placerville jury in May found Nutting not guilty on three felonies, including charges of filing false documents, perjury and approving conflict-of-interest contracts, and deadlocked on the fourth, resulting in no conviction.
But Nutting was also charged with six misdemeanors and convicted for receiving “illegal, undocumented loans” from two county employees and Douglas Veerkamp, a construction contractor who does business with El Dorado County. Nutting used the money to post bail after he was ordered to surrender on the felony charges.
Nutting and his attorney, David Weiner, argued in court that the money was not loaned, but offered freely by friends so Nutting could post bail under a time of duress. They asked to have that distinction included in jury instructions at trial but the request was denied.
“These were friends. Everybody got their money right back except for (one woman) who put it up for bail. She voluntarily did it, and she got it back from the court. All the others got it back within hours,” Weiner said. “We were denied an instruction as to defining bail, which is what this was, and the jurors we interviewed said if they had that information the result could have been different.”
Nutting’s appeal of the six misdemeanor convictions was filed in California’s Third District Court of Appeals. A second appeal will challenge visiting Superior Court Judge Tim Buckley’s decision in early June to order Nutting out of office because of the convictions.
“We think a felony conviction removes someone, vacates an office. Misdemeanors, generally not, unless there’s something unusual, and it would have to involve some official duty,” Weiner said. “Even if the convictions stand, we think his position should not have been vacated because there was nothing he did that was a violation of his official duties.”
Buckley determined Nutting’s actions did constitute official misconduct and said they raised concerns about dual-allegiance and conflicts of interest, calling it inappropriate for a supervisor to solicit money from someone who contracts with the county.
Buckley’s decision has ramifications statewide, according to Weiner. “Anyone who is an elected official now is going to be under the thumb of district attorneys. They better stay close with the (district attorneys) and do what they want done, otherwise they’re in trouble quick. If they interpret violation of official duties that broadly, we think it will be of interest to elected officials statewide,” he said.
With Nutting removed from office, El Dorado County’s four remaining supervisors authorized a Sept. 9 special election for voters in District 2 to elect a new representative. Six candidates have taken early steps to run for the seat, including Nutting’s wife, Jennifer Nutting. Five other potential candidates are Shiva Frentzen, Claire McNeal, Dave Pratt, Janet Saitman and George Wesley Turnboo.
The District 2 supervisor represents southwest El Dorado County, including parts of Cameron Park, Shingle Springs and El Dorado Hills.
Voters in District 4 and in District 5 will elect new supervisors in November’s general election.
County officials considered consolidating the special election with the general election, but could not because of a provision in the county charter that requires a special election within 90 to 120 days of a declared vacancy. Recorder-Clerk Bill Schultz estimated the special election will cost between $80,000 and $100,000.