El Dorado County Supervisor Ray Nutting testified Tuesday that his failure to report state income on economic disclosure reports was an honest mistake and that he never tried to mislead anyone.
The four-term county supervisor appeared by turns confused and emotional as he spent almost all day on the witness stand fielding questions from his attorney in the turn-of-the-century courthouse in Old Placerville.
Nutting faces charges stemming from state fire grants he received for clearing brush from his ranch. Prosecutors allege that he failed to describe that income on his political disclosure forms. They also say his board votes to fund two local fire districts were a conflict of interest and that he illegally borrowed money from county employees to post bail when he was arrested last year.
El Dorado County District Attorney Vern Pierson has called Nutting a “hypocrite” for criticizing government as a fiscally conservative politician while accepting government grants as a citizen.
Nutting, in turn, has accused Pierson and other elected officials of prosecuting him for political reasons.
Much of Nutting’s testimony Tuesday focused on why he included or excluded information on the economic disclosure forms required of government employees and politicians across the state.
“I was trying to fill out these forms to the best of my ability,” said Nutting, adding later that “I found myself struggling as I tried to fill out the forms.”
The state’s “Statement of Economic Interests” requires elected officials to fill out several schedules about their investments, incomes, assets and other financial information, particularly when it might be related to business the officials will vote on.
Nutting said he was often vexed by how to handle his ranch because it served different functions in his life – home, source of rental income and business interest.
He said he never intentionally withheld information when completing the forms.
The testimony was often technical and somewhat repetitive. Nutting appeared to struggle with questions toward the end of the day. His eyes welled up and his voice broke when he was asked about allegedly taking illegal loans for bail.
Nutting is accused of seven misdemeanors for allegedly soliciting bail money illegally from two county workers, a major construction contractor and a local bondsman.
Nutting insisted that he never asked any of them for loans. He said the two county workers voluntarily brought money to his home to help him.
He got upset trying to answer questions about them. “I’m a little upset, sir,” Nutting told the judge when asked if he was OK.
Nutting also testified that he didn’t expect anything in return when he voted on budgets for the two local fire districts. An official who co-signed checks to Nutting for the brush clearing through the state program works for one of the fire districts.
Nutting’s attorney is expected to continue with questions for him this morning before the prosecution has its chance to question him. Nutting is expected to be the final witness in the case.
Jurors will hear closing arguments and instructions from the judge before beginning deliberations, probably not before Thursday.
Call The Bee’s Brad Branan, (916) 321-1065. Follow him on Twitter @BradB_at_SacBee.