Wednesday ended the evidence portion of the trial of Supervisor Ray Nutting with Judge Timothy Buckley planning to give the case to the jury on Thursday.
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The day opened with yet another minor hitch. This time it was a juror who was excused after becoming ill. That spot was filled by an alternate.
Defense attorney David Weiner then reviewed some of the counts against Nutting including the allegation that Nutting had filed false documents. In particular, he referred to a second CFIP grant Nutting received and whether or not the work was done according to the time schedule in the contract.
Nutting said he asked for two extensions to the contract. One was granted through April 15, 2009. He said he wasn’t aware a request for a second extension, that would take the contract to June 30, 2009, hadn’t been granted because he was never notified.
Nonetheless, his forester on the project, Mark Stewart, and Patrick McDaniel, who is Cal Fire’s Amador-El Dorado Unit Vegetation Management Program coordinator, met him on his ranch on May 25 to assess how much acreage to include in the CFIP invoice. That invoice was submitted to Cal Fire on May 29, 2009, and was paid.
On another charge of failing to disclose income on his 700 form, he said he didn’t report the money he received from his second CFIP grant because he didn’t receive it during the period the form referred to. Later he amended his 700 form and did include it after talking to staff from the DA’s Office. Asked by his attorney if his intention was to hide the money, Nutting said no and noted he had already explained why the amount was left off; namely because, according to the information he had received, he wasn’t required to report any government income on the form and the CFIP grant was state money.
Nutting said he didn’t report another grant paid to the Happy Valley Trust on his 700 form either because the money was his brother’s. He was only a trustee and didn’t financially benefit from the trust, he testified.
Nutting explained that the allegation he failed to report rental income was previously explained as being due to his ranch being his business, his home and also the place where he has rental units, with the money from those activities jointly reported on the form.
When asked if he ever signed any false reports or tried to hide any facts on forms he signed, Nutting said no. He added under questioning that it was his forester who reviewed most of the documents, with Stewart signing some of them and Nutting signing others, and that he relied on his professional staff to guide him through the CFIP process.
Deputy district attorney James Clinchard then cross-examined Nutting, beginning with the question of whether or not Nutting considered himself a conservative and if he ran as a conservative candidate for supervisor. Nutting responded he did, but it’s a non-partisan office, he added. Clinchard went on to question whether Nutting was registered as a Democrat or Republican and if he had been endorsed by organizations favoring low taxes. Nutting responded he was against raising taxes in general, but had voted to raise them in certain cases.
Clinchard then moved on to the 700 form, asking Nutting rhetorically if the candidate disclosure laws applied to him, to which he said yes, adding that he takes them very seriously. When asked once again why the grant money he received was not reported on his 700 form for the appropriate year, Nutting said he didn’t believe he was required to report it, although it was reported on his income taxes. He also claimed there was no conflict of interest in his receiving the grant money since the program had nothing to do with his job on the Board of Supervisors.
Clinchard went on to ask about CFIP grant money given to the Happy Valley Trust, with Nutting repeating he received none of the grant money and received no financial benefit as a trustee of any of his brother’s trusts. The attorney also alleged that Nutting never included information on his campaign literature about his receiving taxpayer grant funds because he didn’t want his constituents to know. Nutting rebutted that accusation by saying he told hundreds of people over the 20 years he was in the program, that he received grant funds from the fuel reduction program. Clinchard then went on to ask if the conservatives in the county would approve of him receiving taxpayer money, to which Nutting replied yes.
Clinchard then asked about the contract for the second grant, with Nutting saying he originally signed the form in January 2009 with an extension to June 30, 2009. He said he believes someone took the document with his signature, crossed out the June date and put in April 15, 2009, as the deadline for the work, but he was never notified of the change. He said he requested the extension so herbicide could be applied later in the year when it would be most effective.
Under questioning, Nutting admitted that he didn’t apply any herbicide between receiving grants and could have paid for it himself. Nutting also reiterated his previous testimony regarding why he didn’t supply any documentation of the work done under the second grant, saying by then Cal Fire was paying per acre and such documentation wasn’t needed as it was with the first and the third grant.
The topic of conflict of interest then came up as Clinchard went over letters and contracts in which Nutting was notified in 2006 and 2007 that the CFIP program has been moved from Cal Fire to the Sierra Coordinated Resources Management Council. A letter to that effect was mailed to Nutting on Feb. 21, 2007. On Aug. 29, 2009, SCRMC sent another letter to Nutting congratulating him on his project. Nutting signed contracts with SCRMC after the switch and checks were cut by the council to Nutting to reimburse him for the work he did under the CFIP program.
The deputy DA went on to remind Nutting that funding for the El Dorado and Georgetown Divide Resource Conservation Districts came from the Board of Supervisors and several members of both districts were also on SCRMC. Clinchard alleged that Nutting had a conflict of interest in approving county funds for the two districts each year.
Trying to cement the idea that a conflict of interest was involved, Clinchard noted that Carlan Meyers was appointed to the El Dorado Conservation District Board in 1994 by Nutting. Later Meyers also served on the board of SCRMC along with Al Hubbard who was on the Georgetown Divide Resource Conservation District and who had been appointed as well. But Nutting said Meyers’ appointment was a routine consent calendar item that was approved by the other supervisors as well.
Next Clinchard moved on to the bail money, noting that Nutting raised $78,000 that day although he only needed $55,000. He mentioned Doug Veerkamp gave Nutting $20,000 towards bail and then asked if Nutting was aware that Veerkamp did business with the county and that some of his contracts came to the Board of Supervisors for approval. Nutting responded, saying he didn’t ask to borrow any money from Veerkamp.
Wrapping up his cross-examination, Clinchard asked Nutting if had violated the public’s trust in his actions, to which Nutting gave an emphatic no.
Defense attorney Weiner then questioned Nutting about any perceived conflicts of interest to which he replied there was no conflict of interest in his votes and he never failed to report income he had a responsibility to report. “I never signed a document I knew was untrue or false,” he said. Asked if he had committed any of the crimes charged in the case, Nutting said he wasn’t guilty of “one accusation by the DA.”
Nutting went on to say he didn’t recognize Al Hubbard’s name on the check from SCRMC and he never met him before the day he walked into the courtroom. “He never did me any favors,” said Nutting, “and I never got any favored treatment.”
Nutting claimed he had no conflict of interest in voting for the budgets of the two resource conservation districts because none of that money went to SCRMC. And even though SCRMC was cutting the checks, he and his forester continued to work with staff from Cal Fire and he had no contact with people from SCRMC. Nutting also said he never received certain documents because they were sent to the wrong address.
Weiner noted that Nutting voted on many items that people could claim he benefited from. Using one example, he cited Nutting’s vote for the Missouri Flat exchange which he uses like anyone else. But there is no conflict of interest, said Weiner, in his both approving the exchange and driving on it.
Nutting reiterated once again that on May 25, 2009, he met with Stewart and McDaniel to determine the amount of acreage to include in the invoice on the second grant. By May 29, 2009, everything was done as required by the grant and that’s the date the completed invoice was submitted for payment.
“I never tried to hide the fact from the public that I got Prop. 40 money,” he said. “When running in 2009 and 2012, I explained how the program worked at every chance I got.” Nutting said he also wrote articles on the program that were published in the newspaper and in two different journals.
With that, both the defense and the prosecution rested with closing arguments scheduled for Thursday.
For a story on Thursday’s court proceedings, click here.
For a story on Tuesday’s court proceedings, click here.
Contact Dawn Hodson at 530-344-5071 or [email protected] Follow @DHodsonMtDemo on Twitter.