Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Nutting trial: Testimony looks at Sierra resource organization


SUPERVISOR RAY NUTTING looks over a document during testimony at his trial Thursday. Democrat photos by Shelly Thorene

From page A1 | April 25, 2014 |

Testimony on the second morning of the Supervisor Ray Nutting trial, April 23, focused on the Sierra Coordinated Resource Management Council.

Katie Maloney, the operations manager for SCRMC, appeared back on the stand after a late start due to motions made outside the jury.

She noted that there was a 2007 contract between the SMRMC and Nutting, signed by her to certify funds were available. It was later amended to extend to April 15, 2009. Richard Gresham, the manager of SCRMC, and Al Hubbard, then chairman of the organization, signed checks to Nutting and the Happy Valley Trust, a section of land next to Nutting’s that was once owned by his brother Tom.

The previous witness, Jeff Calvert of Cal Fire, looked over descriptions and cap rates for reimbursement on the documents, while she looked over the paperwork and signatures. Once both had approved a contract, it was put into effect. She said she “very much” respects Calvert’s opinion on paperwork.

She then told Pete Williams of the state Attorney General’s Office, one of the prosecutors, that Hubbard had been vice chairman of SCMRC from 2007 to 2008 and chairman from 2009 to 2012. He was the director of the Georgetown Divide Resource Conservation District and their delegate to the SCRMC. In 2009, Carlan Meyer was the vice chairman, taking over as chairman when Hubbard resigned. Meyer resigned his position a few weeks before the trial began.

Invoices were then shown to Maloney, who confirmed that an item for “follow-up, herbicides” was for $12,020. It was signed by Nutting and his registered professional forester, Patrick McDaniel. If the work had not been done by the landowner, Nutting, she would have looked at contractor invoices. To that end, she had an invoice from Nutting Brush Clearing Co. dated May 26 — after the deadline. She noted that invoices can be dated later than the work done.

An invoice for $49,000 for Nutting was currently pending, but had been partially paid out. She told defense attorney David Weiner that it was not approved because she had been in court the previous day and was unable to mail it out.

Maloney did not know if Nutting did any of the work himself, but noted the invoice from the Nutting Brush Clearing Co. shared a mailing address with Nutting’s mailing address.

In a subject that left the previous witness consternated, Weiner asked whether a space in the final invoice of a contract should state the contract rate. Maloney said it should not, though she has seen the contract cost in the column before. It should be the actual cost. Weiner dropped the matter and moved on.

The El Dorado County Board of Supervisors, Maloney confirmed, is not involved, to her knowledge, with the SCRMC or the RCDs that form it. There is no connection of Nutting to the Proposition 40 money that is used to reimburse the fuel-reduction program’s participants. He had never called for special treatment, and in 2009, Maloney only knew of Nutting’s name, having never met him.

Expenses for the SCRMC are office supplies, bank charges and Maloney’s compensation. These are invoiced to Cal Fire.

After lunch, McDaniel was called to the stand. He noted that he measured the acres completed, and if a grantee did his own work, he would not have an invoice for work done.

He said he had worked with Mark Stewart, the registered professional forester that Nutting hired, before Nutting’s contract. He had worked with Stewart often since McDaniel joined Cal Fire, and believed Stewart to have submitted the most California Forest Improvement Program Prop 40 contracts in the region. He regarded Stewart’s work as “very good,” he told Weiner.

He noted only one or two other CFIP grantees in the region did their own work. He said he overlooked the zero in Nutting’s contract. Nutting was not shown any favoritism.

An unsigned amendment to the contract that would extend the April 15, 2009, end date to June 30 of that year was presented in court to McDaniel. He was unsure why it was unsigned. He could not remember if he had seen the document.

McDaniel did not believe that he would contact people who were successful grantees if more money from Prop 40 came in.

As with previous witnesses, Weiner asked about the eligible rate as opposed to the actual rate on the contract. McDaniel, as with the previous witnesses, believed it should be the actual money spent. He noted Nutting’s new RPFs did not agree with that interpretation.

He noted that herbicide sprayed as part of the contract does not have to be successful to be reimbursed; it simply has to be done. The inspection for the project as a whole was likely done after April 15, 2009. But, additional work done after that deadline would not be taken into account for the contract.

The people then tried to call Lou Green. However, the jury was let out of the courtroom and a hearing commenced regarding whether the evidence Green, former El Dorado county counsel, was admissible to the jury. A county-retained attorney was brought in to argue attorney-client privilege between Nutting and Green. Weiner believed the evidence would take too long to argue and just confuse the jury. Part of the letter that Green would speak about had already been judged inadmissible. But, a footnote would be allowed.

The jury was brought back in. Green was still at the stand. A sidebar objection began. Green was finally allowed to testify.

He said he had given legal advice in April of 2011 to the Board of Supervisors concerning a vote and possible conflicts of interest. The aforementioned letter, dated April 8, 2011, was addressed, in part, to Nutting. It regarded him being a trustee of the Happy Valley Trust and his percentage of ownership. Nutting stood to earn money from the sale of timber on what was once his brother’s land, now a trust with Tom Nutting as the beneficiary. He said he got the information from meetings with Nutting.

Questions from Weiner focused on whether Green remembered the information or if he was recollecting it from just the letter. Green remembered the subject matter and how he received it, but not the exact language of the footnote.

Green and the jury were then let out to continue arguing whether the evidence was admissible and whether his testimony should be struck from the record. The trial ended for the day, to be picked up the next morning.





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