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Section 8 housing: Supes respond to latest DA letter about Nutting

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From page A1 | August 14, 2013 |

Four El Dorado County Supervisors assured District Attorney Vern Pierson that they will continue to “protect the integrity of county government administrative and legislative processes.” That affirmation was included in a letter authorized by the board Aug. 6 during a closed session and was in response to Pierson’s letter of July 26 informing the board “about an allegation involving Supervisor (Ray) Nutting and our Public Housing Authority.”

The Mountain Democrat published a story July 31 citing Pierson’s letter, which alleges that Nutting had attempted to apply to make a piece of his property eligible for rental under the federal Section 8 subsidized housing program. As an elected county official Nutting would be in violation of conflict of interest laws if he were to benefit from participation in a Section 8 rental.

In earlier communications, Nutting stated that he was fully aware that he would not be able to use the housing program but that he was simply doing a favor for a single mother who was eligible for Section 8 assistance. Nutting also attempted to seek a waiver that would have allowed him to participate in the program. Pierson, however, said his officers interviewed employees at the county housing authority who stated:

“(Nutting) had repeated contact, up to the department head,” Pierson said. “It was over a two-week period, trying to get staff to help … He was told it was against the law, and two weeks later, he asks for the waiver.” The waiver was not granted and Pierson wrote that Health and Human Services staff who dealt with Nutting said, he “wouldn’t let it go and appeared obsessed with getting around the rules.”

The board’s letter signed by Chairman Ron Briggs further assures the DA “and the citizens of the County of El Dorado that we take this matter very seriously and we will continue to cooperate with the offices of the District Attorney and the State Attorney General.”

Three other documents are attached to the board’s letter. The first, written on Community Development Agency letter head, is signed by Kim Kerr, assistant chief administrative officer. Addressed to Barbara Shanley at the U.S. Forest Service South Lake Tahoe office, Kerr tells the federal agency that El Dorado County government has taken a number of specific steps to ensure that Supervisor Nutting will have no role and no participation in any issues dealing with state or federal funds. The letter further notes that Nutting has and will continue to voluntarily recuse himself from any and all matters that may affect or be affected by state or federal funds, “contracts or other funding assistance during the pendency of the criminal matters against him.”

Additionally, Kerr states that the county has also restricted Nutting’s and his administrative assistant’s access to other county departments “so that they cannot enter into any other county offices except through public entrances and during hours those offices are open to the public.”

The second attachment is a letter signed by Briggs as chairman of the board and addressed to “all interested state and federal agencies and departments.” This letter basically reiterates what Kerr’s letter assures and adds that in the event “Nutting ceases to voluntarily recuse himself,” the rest of the board will not consider his opinions or comments nor count his vote regarding any board decision. “The county does not anticipate that such a change will occur,” Briggs’ letter concludes.

Nutting’s June 21 letter to his fellow supervisors is the third attachment. He assures them that he will voluntarily recuse himself as agreed so as not to put the county at risk of losing federal money in particular. He further states that he “will be vindicated of the malicious charges that have been made against me” and that he intends to “be acquitted in a court of law as quickly as possible and then return to perform all of the duties for which I was elected.”

The charges against Nutting include four criminal charges for filing false documents, perjury by declaration and conflict of interest in a contract. Some of the charges are related to federal grant funds he used to reduce fire hazards on his ranch in the south county and for which it is alleged that he submitted inadequate or fraudulent documents. He has not yet been arraigned and “No debarment or suspension proceedings are currently pending against Supervisor Nutting,” Kerr’s letter adds.

Under the terms of the federal grants in which Nutting participated, conviction or indictment for certain specific crimes could jeopardize the county’s qualifications “as a responsible agency” with respect to some federal grant funding.

As of Thursday afternoon, the DA’s office had reported that Pierson’s letter was not available to the public as it had been addressed only to Board Chairman Briggs, and staff at the Board of Supervisors Office were going to check with county counsel to determine whether or not the copy Briggs referenced could be made public, though its details have already been published in the Mountain Democrat.

Contact Chris Daley at 530-344-5063 or cdaley@mtdemocrat.net. Follow @CDaleyMtDemo.

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