El Dorado County Supervisor Ray Nutting, facing felony charges for failing to properly disclose state income for brush-clearing on a family ranch, recused himself today from voting on any matter involving the county budget, state and federal contracts - or even approving minutes of board meetings.
One week after El Dorado County District Attorney Vern Pierson announced four felony charges against the four-term supervisor, county counsel Ed Knapp said county officials and supervisors have agreed that Nutting will not participate in any vote involving expenditure of taxpayer funds.
And Nutting, while declaring his innocence today, publicly announced he would abide by the policy.
In a lengthy address at the start of the Board of Supervisors meeting, Knapp said the county "will take all necessary steps to ensure that the recent developments involving Supervisor Nutting do not interfere with the proper functioning of county government."
A criminal complaint against Nutting charged that he broke the law by failing to list in required state disclosure forms some $70,000 in income received under state fire prevention grants for clearing brush from his 340-acre family ranch in 2003 and 2009. The supervisor, who is due to receive another under $49,348 under a third California Forest Improvement Program grant, also faces charges that he violated conflict-of-interest laws by failing to recuse himself from votes on county contracts with conservation districts that distribute the funds.
In an interview Tuesday, Nutting said, "I look forward to a speedy trial and being exonerated."
Wearing a grey suit and speaking to the public during the board meeting, Nutting pledged to confine his votes to ministerial items, such as two declarations Tuesday supporting local Independence Day fireworks extravaganzas and a third item affirming an administrative list of surplus county property.
Nutting had pledged last week that he wouldn't vote on any budget matters involving the district attorney's office that is prosecuting him. But Board Chairman Ron Briggs said supervisors were advised that Nutting also couldn't participate in any county claim involving federal and state contracts that require affidavits that no elected officers of the county were facing indictments or criminal complaints for political corruption.
Amid sudden confusion over Nutting's participation, the board on Monday tabled a hearing on the county budget and voted to hire the San Francisco law firm of Hanson Bridgett to advise the Board of Supervisors on how to handle the matter.
In announcing today that he agreed to recuse himself from most board votes, Nutting said, "Although I am innocent, I believe my constituents want me to do what is in the best interest of the constituents - and protect those dollars."
He went on to add: "I do not believe there should be such a law that puts an innocent person in this situation."
In his address to the board, Knapp said that, "due to the nature of the charges against Supervisor Nutting and various regulations involving use of state and federal funds, county counsel advises that Supervisor Nutting not participate in any board items that involve funding."
Knapp also said Nutting should "recuse himself from any other items where his participation might give rise to an appearance of a conflict of interest." He added that while Nutting had "agreed to voluntarily recuse himself from such items, this agreement should not be read as his agreement that any conflict exist."
Nutting, 53, a fourth generation timber rancher who was elected to his fourth term on the board in 2012, is due to be arraigned on the criminal charges June 10.