FPPC to Nutting: No conflict of interest

By From page A1 | June 21, 2013

While El Dorado County Supervisor Ray Nutting awaits reassignment of his case by Presiding Judge Suzanne Kingsbury, the California Fair Political Practices Commission mailed him two letters informing him it found no conflict of interest.

“In 2009, you received $22,423 for a completed project initiated in 2007. Currently, you have an ongoing CFP project with a maximum reimbursement of $49,348 that is redeemable in October of 2013,” read the first letter dated June 10 from Adrianne Korchmaros, a political reform consultant with the FPCC. The money was awarded as a Prop. 40 grant from Cal Fire and the Sierra Coordinated Resources Management Council.

“SCRMC is a Joint Powers Authority that includes El Dorado County Resource Conservation District and the Georgetown Divide Resource Conservation District, both of which receive partial funding annually from the El Dorado Board of Supervisors,” the letter continued. “You voted to approve the consent calendars before the El Dorado Board of Supervisors from 2009-2012 on which this funding was an item. In addition to voting, you personally signed the annual agreements in 2010 and 2011.”

Korchmoros wrote that the grant money falls under the category of “reimbursement income,” which falls under state regulations. “As a county supervisor, you are a public official. However, you have not provided services to the governmental agencies awarding the grants money in your public official capacity. Nor have you provided services to the agencies awarding the grants; rather, you have received incentivizing payments to manage your property,” she wrote.

The regulation, 18703.3(a)(1) reads, in part, “A public official’s income includes income which has been promised to the public official but not yet received by him or her. If he or she has a legally enforceable right to the promised income.”

Including the income that Nutting would have received from 2009 to present, Korchmaros wrote, he had “potentially disqualifying” interests in both Cal Fire and SCRMC. He had been promised or had received grant money from them. “SCRMC was indirectly involved in the Board of Supervisors’ decisions to partially fund two of its member agencies. A material financial effect on SCRMC from this attenuated decision is not in evidence from the facts of the situation.”

Korchmaros found that there was no evidence that funding the two member agencies had any affect on Nutting’s personal finances. The grants came from the Proposition 40 Resources Bond Act, not the budgets of the SCRMC member agencies and that the voting benefitted the community at large.

“However, even without addressing the question of whether or not your vote to approve funding to two member agencies of SCRMC would have a reasonably foreseeable material financial effect on SCRMC, application of the Act’s ‘public generally’ exception demonstrates that there was no conflict of interest involved in your making these decisions.”

A follow-up letter from FPPC’s Gary Winuk on June 14 noted that, in the administrative case against Nutting, Nutting had “conceded to not properly disclosing income received on your annual Statement of Economic Interests and to paying an administrative fine on this violation.” Winuk again stated that, under the “very specific circumstances” regarding to Government Codes 87100 and 87103 and based on the facts they had, “your conduct did not violate the conflict of interest provisions of the Act.”

However, the FPPC does not have “any oversight or expertise” with Government Code Section 1090, the sections Nutting is charged with violating, and the finding does not take into account all the facts and evidence that could be part of the criminal case nor any that may be uncovered in the future.

Cole Mayer

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