Evidence shows Nutting did work after contract expiration date
April 25, 2014
Evidence presented in the Supervisor Ray Nutting trial on April 24 pointed to work being done after a contract deadline — meaning Nutting likely should not have received the money, a potential conflict of interest.
The day began with former county counsel Lou Green retaking the stand. He reiterated that he was told information by Nutting concerning the Happy Valley Trust, land adjacent to Nutting's land, and that Nutting was a trustee and his brother, Tom, was the beneficiary of the trust. Timber sold from either piece of land could result in a profit for Nutting.
However, under questioning from defense attorney David Weiner, Green said that he did not know when the timber harvesting was done. No specific plan for harvest was given to Green.
Next to the stand was Scott Johnson of Wilbur-Ellis, a nationwide chemical distribution company. A vegetation management specialist, Johnson said he had worked on many California Forest Improvement Programs, supported by money from Proposition 40. He said he provided the signed prescription for herbicide for Nutting, "like a doctor's prescription.
Johnson had been contacted by Nutting's registered professional forester, Mark Stewart, whom Johnson dealt with directly. He provided what he said amounted to an industrial version of Roundup for both Nutting and his brother's land, pointing to invoices for the product. The herbicide, according to documents, was ordered on April 27, 2009 — after the April 15 contract expiration date. Earlier testimony from multiple witnesses stated that Nutting should not have received the reimbursement grant money if he had done work after the contract end date. A credit card statement showed payment two days after being ordered. Johnson stated of the herbicide, "I think he applied it in May."
He told Weiner that while he was not present during the application, he had seen reports. He noted that if the herbicide was sprayed two-four hours before rain, the spray would not work. Snow could also cause the product to not work, as the plant would not take in the spray. Instead, it would be better to wait until the end of May through mid-August, when growth cycles in plants are consistent, to spray.
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He said that purple dye was also sold to Nutting to see where the herbicide had been sprayed.
Dustin Durrett and Daniel Randall were the next two witnesses. Both had applied the herbicide in 2009 to Nutting's land under Nutting's direction. Both had checks for multiple dates in May for the work — spraying the herbicide and burning detritus. Durrett remembered being paid at the end of each week, though Randall couldn't quite remember but believed the same.
The creator of the Form 700, used to show economic interests of elected officials, Linda Cassady of the Fair Political Practices Commission of California, described when officials have to file the form: When they assume office, annually and when they leave office. It allows the public to see where the elected official's outside income is coming from and any potential conflict of interest.
Cassady was shown multiple Form 700s — and Form 721s and 730s, the Form 700's predecessor — filed by Nutting over the years. She was shown an amendment filed on April 4, 2013. The amendment was for a Form 700 filed three years previously. It was for Prop 40 grant money.
George Turnboo, Nutting's opponent in the supervisor race in 2012, said he saw Nutting at Tea Party meetings during the time. The two would hold debates. He testified that he never heard Nutting tell the public that he was receiving taxpayer money to improve his land, but Nutting told Turnboo in private. Turnboo said Nutting "didn't want it to get out" during the campaign. It was, Turnboo said, a heated discussion at a Republican Central Committee meeting.
The supervisor who beat Nutting in the two elections previous, Helen Baumann, testified next. She told co-prosecutor Pete Williams of the state Attorney General's Office that she had no idea Nutting was using taxpayer money for his land. Had she known, she would have used it during the campaign. Baumann, a vineyard owner, had not applied for Prop 40 money herself, she said as, "It is a conflict of interest, in my opinion."
Weiner's questioning focused on whether Baumann had seen Nutting's 700 Forms. She had not, but believed people on her campaign had. He also focused on whether Baumann had voted on anything that would improve her vineyard, which she denied. There had been a heated discussion between Baumann and Nutting on whether there was a conflict of interest concerning the vineyard.
Switching to direct questioning, Weiner asked about the consent calendar. Baumann said it was not unusual for a supervisor to take an item off the consent calendar — which essentially approves a batch of items, such as contracts being renewed — and budget items were typically not on the consent calendar during her time in office. However, it depended on the year, as sometimes they were.
Al Hubbard and Carlan Meyer's testimonies closed out the day. Both previous members of the Sierra Coordinated Resource Management Council, the joint powers association that cuts the reimbursement checks for the region for Prop 40 grants, both had signed the checks in the past. Both also noted that the El Dorado Resource Conservation District, part of SCRMC had a base funding, voted on by the Board of Supervisors. Hubbard joked that a major part of his compensation for being part of EDRCD was a sandwich during a lunch with the Board of Supervisors to "brag" about what the RCD had accomplished so the Board of Supervisors would continue the funding. Meyer testified it was similar with the Georgetown Divide RCD.
Hubbard and later Meyer served as the chairman for SCRMC. Both cut checks, and both said that Cal Fire could not demand the checks be signed. No special favors were granted for Nutting.
The trial ended for the day. It will continue on Tuesday at 10 a.m. in Department 2.
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