A California political oversight board says an El Dorado County supervisor, facing local criminal charges for failing to disclose state income for brush clearing on a family ranch, didn't have a conflict of interest in board votes on funding local fire districts.
Supervisor Ray Nutting faces four felony charges in El Dorado County for violating state political disclosure and conflict interest laws for allegedly hiding some $70,000 in income received in state fire protection grants in 2003 and 2010.
In an unrelated proposed enforcement action today, the California Fair Political Practices Commission is recommending that Nutting pay a $400 civil fine to the state for failing to list 2009 California Forest Improvement income on a statement of economic of economic interest form officeholders are required to submit.
However, in an accompanying advisory letter to be sent to Nutting, the FPPC says the supervisor didn't have conflict of interest when he participated in board votes to fund two local fire districts, the El Dorado County Resource Conservation District and the Georgetown Divide Resource Conservation District. The FPPC is due to vote on its findings in the case on June 20.
In a separate criminal complaint, El Dorado County District Attorney Vern Pierson has alleged that Nutting broke the law by failing to disclose income as well as recuse himself from Board of Supervisors votes funding the local fire districts, which distribute state fire protection grants.
Nutting, who is due to be arraigned today on the felony charges, also faces seven additional misdemeanors for illegally soliciting money from two county workers and a major construction contractor to bail himself out of jail May 28.
An advisory letter on potential FPPC civil violations said Nutting could vote on general funding for the two local districts. The letter, from Adrianne Korchmaros of the political oversight agency's enforcement division, said the supervisor acted properly in the board votes because they didn't involve a direct personal financial gain in violation of the California Political Reform Act.
"Because the decision by the Board of Supervisors to partially fund El Dorado County Resource Conservation District and the Georgetown Divide Resource Conservation District will flow to the public generally and does not uniquely benefit you, the conflict of interest provisions of the Act will not apply," Korchmaros wrote.
The FPPC noted that Nutting had received fire protection grant awards administered by the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection and the regional Sierra Coordinated Resources Management Council, which includes the two local fire conservation districts.
While the FPPC letter to Nutting noted that Sierra council "was indirectly involved" in Board of Supervisors decisions to "partially fund two of its member agencies," it said there was no evidence of a "material financial effect on your personal finances."
Nutting criminal attorney David Weiner seized on the FPPC correspondence today to assert that his client is facing excessive prosecution in El Dorado County.
"The significance of it is that there is really not much there," Weiner said.
Call The Bee's Peter Hecht, (916) 326-5539.