Supervisor Ray Nutting

Prosecutors file new charges against El Dorado Supervisor Ray Nutting

Published: Friday, Jun. 7, 2013 - 12:00 am | Page 1A
Last Modified: Monday, Jun. 10, 2013 - 1:02 pm

El Dorado County Supervisor Ray Nutting, already accused of felony political malfeasance, was charged Thursday with illegally soliciting money from two county workers and a major construction contractor to bail himself out of jail.

Nutting, 53, had surrendered voluntarily to authorities May 28 after District Attorney Vern Pierson charged him with four felonies for allegedly failing to properly disclose about $70,000 in state income received for brush clearing on his family ranch.

Pierson and state Attorney General Kamala Harris filed seven new charges, all misdemeanors, in a criminal complaint Thursday. The attorney general's office is helping in the local investigation at the request of El Dorado County prosecutors.

The charges allege that Nutting, before his surrender, illegally solicited bail money from two El Dorado County employees as well as a major construction contractor and a local bail bondsman who both do business with the county.

Nutting's defense attorney, David Weiner blasted the new counts as a stepped-up political assault on the four-term county supervisor and long-time timber rancher.

"We will see what this fishing expedition leads to now," Weiner said of the expanding probe of Nutting. "He is not guilty of anything – except being a political target. It's becoming more and more clear."

The new complaint focuses on Nutting's actions after the District Attorney's Office called him last week to inform him he faced arrest under a four-count felony complaint.

Prosecutors previously alleged that he concealed state income for fire safety improvements on his ranch as part of a California reimbursement program.

The prior complaint also said Nutting violated political conflict of interest laws by failing to recuse himself from votes on county contracts with conservation districts that distribute state fire funds. He is due to be arraigned Monday.

Weiner claimed the felony charges stemmed from innocent paperwork errors by the supervisor on state statements of economic interest required for elected officials.

Worried about going to jail, Nutting called friends and supporters May 28, asking for help so he could post $55,000 in bail.

According to the new criminal complaint, Nutting got a personal loan of $50,000 from his own county administrative assistant, Kitty Miller, and $8,000 from Catherine Tyler, a deputy clerk for the Board of Supervisors. Neither could be reached for comment.

Nutting also solicited a $20,000 loan from Douglas Veerkamp, the brother of El Dorado County Supervisor Brian Veerkamp.

Douglas Veerkamp runs Douglas Veerkamp Engineering Inc., an excavation and grading firm for housing and road construction and other projects. He said he has won county bids for covering sludge at the regional landfill, snow removal and drainage work.

State law bans elected officials from borrowing money from any person working for their office or governmental agency. It also bars county supervisors from taking loans from people with business contracts with the same county.

Weiner said Nutting asked for the money in frenetic moments before he turned himself in. He said the supervisor then got funds from his extended family and paid the $8,000 back to Tyler and the $20,000 back to Veerkamp after his release from custody. He said Miller will be repaid once the court reduces Nutting's bail or the case is resolved.

In an interview Thursday, Douglas Veerkamp said he was called by a distraught Nutting and asked if he could help keep him out of jail.

"He was crying and upset and said, 'I've got to turn myself in at noon at the county jail. Can I count on you to help me with some bail money?' I said, 'Sure.'

"I didn't see anything wrong with helping a friend," Veerkamp said.

Nutting also called Chuck Holland, a bail bondsman who also supplies the county with GPS monitoring devices. The criminal complaint said Nutting illegally solicited $10,000 from Holland.

"He said he had only 45 minutes to turn himself in," Holland said in an interview.

He said he turned down the supervisor's request for $10,000 because he was barred by law as a bail bondsman from lending his personal money and because of his county contracts.

"I explained to him that it would be an unlawful act for me to do that," said Holland, who said he then offered advice to Nutting on securing a bail bondsman and on how much they charged.

The criminal complaint doesn't allege any wrongdoing by other people Nutting sought out and who put up money for his bail.

But after word surfaced that public employees came to the financial rescue of the embattled supervisor, Board Chairman Ron Briggs said he asked the county's legal counsel Thursday for advice on whether the county may want to adopt new internal policies.

"I'm asking them to evaluate the new alleged charges and bring forth recommendations for whether any type of ethical wall may need to be built," Briggs said.

Veerkamp said he wired $20,000 to Nutting's bank account. After the supervisor was released, he added, Nutting and his wife came to his workplace and wrote him a check refunding the money.

"He thanked me for stepping up," Veerkamp said. "They said they had gotten family money and wanted to pay it back in full."

Veerkamp, who described himself as a friend of Nutting's family for 25 years, was angered by the charges against the supervisor.

"Apparently, they're on a witch hunt for Ray Nutting," Veerkamp said. "I don't appreciate getting tangled up in this thing whatsoever. We have an excellent name and reputation. It's rather upsetting."

Weiner said it was the money from the county employees that ultimately freed Nutting from El Dorado County jail – where the $55,000 in bail had to be posted in cash or cashier's checks to secure his release.

In an appearance at the Board of Supervisors meeting Tuesday, before the latest charges, Nutting said, "I look forward to a speedy trial and being exonerated."

He recused himself at the meeting from voting on any matter involving expenditure of county funds, state and federal contracts – or even approving minutes of the board.

Call The Bee's Peter Hecht, (916) 326-5539.

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