In an escalating public feud, the El Dorado County district attorney is accusing county Supervisor Ray Nutting of trying to use his official position to get a federal low-income housing subsidy for a rental property in 2010.
Distric Attorney Vern Pierson's allegation, in a scathing July 29 letter to the Board of Supervisors, is inflaming political divisions between supporters of the embattled supervisor and Pierson.
The controversy took off after Pierson brought felony charges in May that resulted in a four-count grand jury indictment over Nutting's alleged failure to properly disclose state income for brush clearing on a family ranch.
The DA later filed misdemeanor counts alleging that Nutting illegally solicited money from two county workers and a major construction contractor to bail himself out of jail.
Now, in a two-page "notification" letter to the Board of Supervisors, Pierson is warning about "possible ongoing wrongdoing."
He suggested Nutting has a conflict of interest in serving on a local public housing authority that administers federal Section 8 rental subsidies that Nutting sought on behalf of a would-be tenant in 2010.
"Given the pending charges and this new information and Supervisor Nutting's seemingly cavalier attitude toward conflicts of interests, I felt an obligation to advise the board," Pierson wrote the Board of Supervisors.
In an interview, Nutting verbally fired back, accusing Pierson of carrying out a political and legal vendetta against him.
"Mr. Pierson is doing what he does shoveling muck," the supervisor said.
Nutting said Pierson, who has filed no additional charges in the latest matter, has wrongly attacked him for trying to help a single mother who inquired about renting a house with a federal Section 8 low-income housing voucher.
"Pierson should be praising me," Nutting said, adding, "The bottom line is that I did everything right."
He said he checked on whether the rental house he owns in Grizzly Flat near Placerville could qualify for the federal program. He said he ended up renting the house to someone else when his property didn't qualify.
Under the Section 8 program, a federal housing subsidy is paid to a landlord on behalf of the renting family. The family then pays the difference between the rent charged by the landlord and the amount subsidized by the federal program.
In his letter to the Board of Supervisors, Pierson suggested Nutting was looking after his own economic interests and exploiting his position as a public official when he sought approval from the county and later appealed to federal officials to approve his rental house for federal rent subsidies.
Pierson distributed a letter Nutting wrote on Board of Supervisors letterhead to a federal official. In the letter, Nutting said he wouldn't vote on issues dealing with Section 8 housing if his property were certified for the program.
After the county rejected Nutting's request for the designation, the supervisor wrote Stephen Schneller, the San Francisco regional director of public housing for the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.
In the letter, Nutting said he had advertised his property for rent and wanted to help a low-income woman obtain "much needed housing."
"However, I have a conflict of interest as an elected official," Nutting wrote in his Sept. 10, 2010, letter to the federal official. "My intent is to eliminate the conflict by not voting on any issues dealing with Section 8 housing in El Dorado County."
Pierson told supervisors that Nutting wrote his appeal "on county letterhead, apparently desperate to secure this rental income." He estimated that Nutting stood to get $1,400 monthly rent for the Grizzly Flat home.
Nutting's critics were quick to react after Pierson's notice to the board.
"County supervisors are not supposed to be writing letters on county letterhead asking HUD to ease their rules so they can get money," said county Controller Joe Harn, who has publicly assailed Nutting over state income the supervisor received for fire prevention work on his family's 340-acre timber ranch.
Dale Small, part of a group of Nutting supporters who set up a legal defense fund for the supervisor, characterized the latest allegations as a controversy intended to fan a politically motivated criminal case.
"I think it's just more piling on," said Small, a tax preparer in Diamond Springs. "I've known Ray for over 20 years and it's just not within his character to do what he's been accused of. They want Ray Nutting out of office. It's real pure and simple El Dorado County politics."
Board of Supervisors Chairman Ron Briggs said the board expects to approve a formal response to Pierson's letter next week.
Briggs said the board has sought to avoid official comment on matters dealing with Nutting, who is due to be arraigned in the criminal case in September. But he added: "It is becoming increasingly difficult administratively as more and more eyes look at every step taken by an elected official."
Call The Bee's Peter Hecht, (916) 326-5539.