How much longer must we cope with the current debacle concerning Supervisor Ray Nutting?
Extensive amounts of county funds are being spent by the district attorney and the county auditor-controller to document and prosecute charges against Supervisor Nutting. Is it in the best interest of the taxpayers to continue with a technically complex prosecution which will clearly be lengthy and more expensive? How long should the loss of the services of a full-time supervisor continue to disenfranchise the residents of Supervisorial District 2?
After a 35-plus year career with the U.S. Government Accountability Office I found that the most successfully implemented recommendations from our audits and investigations called for the most practical and cost-effective actions rather than pursuing costly and lengthy civil or criminal legal sanctions. I believe that all the players need to recognize that the public interest is not well served by what looks like a game of political chicken. Instead, they can best meet the needs of residents and taxpayers by agreeing to a form of mediated settlement.
Ray Nutting is accountable directly to the people who elected him. Whether or not he should continue as a supervisor can be better decided by the voters in his district, not by a court ruling on legal paperwork technicalities. It is clear to me that Ray Nutting truly believed that he was not doing anything criminal. What he may be guilty of is having the hubris of a popular politician who believed that he could better interpret various regulations than most and did not always need to pay full attention to the fine print in such regulations to which the rest of us have to fully comply. I daresay that he is not the only county official, elected or not, who has acted this way.
Accordingly, to end this wasteful episode, I suggest a compromise that would involve Ray Nutting talking to his constituents … not to defend the legality of his actions but to acknowledge overall responsibility for the unintended negative consequences of his actions, describe what are his “lessons learned” and discuss how he intends to make things right. This acknowledgment of a need for improvement without any admission of intentional criminal action, could be enough to allow for the stoppage of the criminal prosecution by the county.
District Attorney Vern Pierson and County Auditor-Controller Joe Harn can stop now and say that they have done their job in following up on the criminal Grand Jury recommendations and making public officials accountable for their actions. Their actions to date have already punished Supervisor Nutting by publicly embarrassing him and forcing him to undertake extensive legal bills for his defense. Agreeing to stopping prosecution at this time should not be seen as a failure by Messrs. Pierson and Harn to do their elected duty but as a responsible action for cost effectiveness reasons. Such deals are routinely made in far more serious felony prosecutions. I would assume the same cost effectiveness arguments would apply to the State Attorney General’s action.
What do I get from this compromise other than the general premise of more effective expenditure of county funds? As a resident in Mr. Nutting’s district, I get back a full-time supervisor who is chastened and made wiser from this experience. Hopefully, he would be even more effective in representing my interests in maintaining the agricultural, rural and natural beauty of our part of this county.
THOMAS J. SCHULZ