El Dorado County Supervisors held firm against a challenge to their authority to hold a special election to fill the District 2 Supervisor’s seat in September.
Shortly before the public portion of the July 15 meeting was adjourned, County Counsel Ed Knapp announced that he had just received a copy of a writ of mandate requested by Ray Nutting and his attorney David Weiner seeking to block the board decision at least until after Nutting’s appeal of misdemeanor convictions has been determined. He noted that the board would take up the issue immediately after the open meeting ended.
A few minutes later the board returned, and Knapp reported that supervisors had voted unanimously to “defend” their decision (based on the County Charter) to continue the plan to have District 2 voters elect the individual, via special election, who will take over the vacated position.
In the first week of June, Judge Timothy Buckley ordered Nutting to step down following his conviction on six misdemeanor charges. The offenses represented violations based on laws that only apply to elected officials.
Weiner told the Mountain Democrat by phone Wednesday that the writ asks the Third District Court of Appeals to “stay” two rulings by Judge Buckley, that is, prevent them from taking effect or remaining in effect. First, the writ seeks to “stay” (in effect, to overturn) the action that removed Nutting from office. Second, the request asks for a “stay” on the ruling that declared the District 2 Supervisor’s seat to be vacant, thereby invalidating the board’s decision to schedule the special election.
The writ is based on a number of issues and interpretations of laws. Judge Buckley ruled that Nutting’s removal was based on “violations of his official duties,” however, the writ notes that there has never been a specific legal description of “violation of official duties.”
It further claims that under the Political Reform Act, conviction of misdemeanors does not automatically call for removal from office. Rather, it describes a “period of disqualification — not removal.” The judge determined under another statute that Nutting had been guilty of “misconduct while in office” and thereby prevented Weiner’s objection to the ruling.
A chronology of actions or events requested in the writ would vacate the ruling that Nutting’s convictions required his removal from office. Next, it would reverse the ruling that a vacancy exists in Supervisorial District 2. That would cause the county to call off the special election and return Nutting to his position and the situation to the “status quo” prior to his sentencing on June 6, according to the language of the writ.
Weiner described some of the possible outcomes of the case as “uncharted waters.” For example, if the county follows through with the special election, and later Nutting’s convictions are overturned by the appeals court, what happens next? Weiner said counties throughout the state are watching El Dorado closely, for the case may hold significant and broad-reaching impacts on government into the future.
The Mountain Democrat has requested comment from supervisors Santiago, Briggs, Veerkamp and Mikulaco, County Counsel’s Office and the Chief Administrative Office, though none was forthcoming at press time Thursday.