The Ray Nutting Legal Mess with Auditor Joe Harn and DA Vern Peirson
Dear Mr. Editor:
Before starting this article I would like to thank you for giving us locals a change at expressing themselves in your on-line Newspaper, via the "Non de Plume" column. An atmosphere of reprisal does exist in here in El Dorado County, and The current District Attorney has a long armed reach. In the coming election it's my guess that the Voters of this County will soon have the last laugh.
This legal mess seems to have started with Mr. Nutting taking advantage of a Grant Program (financial help), offered by Cal-Fire, a California State Agency, to Land Owners of property in forested areas. This financial help, helps cover a percentage of some of the costs of clearing volatile debris to reduce the risk of a catastrophic Forest Fire.
From my point of view, the guy who got this legal ball of mumble jumble rolling is El Dorado County Auditor-Controller, "Joe Harn", who publically implied on Television, that "Nutting" was using public funds to clean up his own back yard. It should be noted, that "Joe Harn" makes over $200,000 thousand dollars a year in salary and perks, provided by our County Taxes. "Nutting" is reported to make approximately about $70,000. Is "Harn's" position really worth $200,000 a year?!?!
With the previous day's closing legal arguments, by the Defense and Prosecution, the outcome of this trial is now in the hands of the Jury. To find the defendant either Guilty, beyond a reasonable doubt, or not Guilty of the charges presented. I personally attended this trial, and tried to be as objective as possible in listening to both the Prosecution and Defense.
A) Contends, based on the evidence (30,000 pages of reports, estimates, invoices, etc), that "Nutting" used his position on the Board of Supervisors, to influence the various County agencies and committees for the prevention of Fire, to okay and look favorably on programs to reduce these hazards. Subsequently enabling him to secure Grant Monies.
B) Once having secured these monies, Nutting is alleged, to have purposely failed to report the grants as Income, on his 700 Government form.
C) The Prosecution wants to paint, Nutting as a hypocrite because while he, at the beginning, was not for these Grants, later on, by taking advantage of them (Grants) .
A) Contends, that Nutting, followed the written criteria, provided by Cal-Fire, by hiring Registered, Certified Foresters, to help him develop a plan to remove volatile brush, prune the surviving vegetation, and spray herbicide to retard and discourage any further growth of hazardous material.
B) While it is true that he was on the Board of Supervisors during one of his requests, he was not on the Board when he requested another (Grant), and did not use his position to enhance his position for the other Grant. That he had to get in line with others, and had to follow the rules like everybody else. To elaborate, this program (prop #40) is controlled by Cal-Fire. It's dictates have to be clearly followed in order to qualify and receive these funds. The Foresters set the plan in place, the plan must be approved by Cal-fire, and then followed by Nutting completing the required work. Afterwards the completed job must be reviewed and signed off by Cal-Fire before any Grant Monies are paid. The Prosecution wants to throw a red herring into the mix by saying that "Nutting" missed a date for the spraying of herbicide during a required time period, and lied about it. Nutting says, that he received verbal permission to apply the spray at a more favorable time in order for it be effective, and did so after the written cutoff date. "Nutting" stated that he received Verbal permission, from the Cal-Fire Inspector, via his Forester "Mark Stewart". Later while testifying, "Stewart" took advantage of his "5th Amendment Rights"" (danger of Self Incrimination), and the Jury was instructed by the Judge, to disregard his Testimony.
It should be noted here that Nuttings personal life has been greatly affected by fire. His parents lives were lost in a plane crash early in his young adult life. Surviving the crash, he tried to rescue them from the burning wreckage of the plane, and was badly burned. He sustained Physical and Mental Scars from that crash which he carries to this day. It seems fitting, that being involved in the Timber Industry, a residence in the middle of a forested area, along with the death of his Parents as result of fire, that he would be concerned with Fire Prevention.
C) During the Cross Examination of the States witnesses, in this Reporters Opinion, Defense Counsel "Weiner", managed to turn the testimony given by Prosecution's witnesses to validate and substantiate the Defense's position, That Nutting was innocent of the Charges against him. That "Nutting" had done what was required, in order for him to obtain a Grant from Cal-Fire.
D) Witnesses for the Defense stated that "Nutting" had on several occasions been informative of the Grant process to several of his neighbors, and to those that were interested in the process. That he was not secretive of his application for a Grant.
In trying to place myself in the defendant's shoes, I've drawn the following analogy.
Let's assume that you need to replace your old Hot Water Heater. While shopping for one you discover that if you install one that is "Energy Efficient" you can obtain a rebate from a State or Federal Agency. In order to save money, you want to do the work yourself, and you go to the County Building Department to get the Permit to install the Hot Water Heater. You discover in order to do the work yourself, you must perform the work under the supervision of a Licensened Plumbing Contractor. The Contractor must submit the application for the Permit with a plan. The plan must include the make and model of the Hot Water Heater, required parts, piping, overall location, installation requirements, and time period for installation as the Rebate is for a specified time period, subsequently the Permit is also for a specified time period.
The Permit is issued and an inspection date for the completed job set. However during installation a certain required part is missing and must be back ordered, delaying the completion of the job. It's later found out that the part has been recalled and another part substituted that is better suited for the job. The replacement part is selected and installed after the required completion date. The Plumbing Contractor knows about this and verbally advises the Building Inspector of such. The Inspector agrees to a later inspection date. While installing the final part the Inspector shows up, with the Contractor for the final Inspection. He sees the work has been completed, except for the final tightening of that part. Although it's after the final inspection date, Given the circumstances about the delay, along with the verbal okay, the Inspector signs off, The Contractor signs off, and you sign off. The Inspector leaves, and turn in the forms for the Rebate. In due time the Rebate comes.
Now let's assume that you have a neighbor that doesn't like you for some reason. This neighbor finds out that you installed a new Hot Water Heater in your home, because he has a friend in the Building Department. He further discovers, that you finished the job after the rebate date. He complains and the Authorities become involved because of the dates.
This analogy may be very simplistic, and brief. It certainly doesn't contain thirty thousand (30,000) pages of evidence and testimony. It's written by an everyday working stiff who pays his taxes, feeds his kids, and minds the law, much like the Jury who now sit in Judgment of Ray Nutting. After listening first hand at this Trial, I've come to the conclusion that this Trial is nothing more than an expensive Witch Hunt, paid for by the Tax Payers of this County. After all is said and done what this all comes to is; was the Public hurt? Was anybody hurt? The answer of course is a very loud NO!!
Did Nutting take advantage of a Public Program? YES!!
Did he use his position to get the Grant? NO!! It's was established that he got in line with everybody else, and fullfilled all the requirements!!
Did he cheat anybody?? NO!!
Did he alter documents to conform with completion dates?? No!! He received a verbal okay, via his Forester, from the Cal-Fire Inspector!!
Did he lie to the Authorities? NO!!
Did he purposely alter his reporting forms? NO!! He made a mistake and corrected such when he was informed of it!!
Did The District Attorney illegally write himself a check for over $4000 dollars from his campaign fund? YES!! Why doesn't the D.A. explain this to the Tax Payers?? Why is he prosecuting "Nutting" for a similar mistake?? Talk about the Kettle calling the Pot Black!!I The District Attorney splitting Legal hairs, in going after a Political Enemy?? YES!!
As to the outcome of "Nutting's" Trial, Guilty, or Not Guilty, that's to be decided by the Vote of the Jury.
Last question; I wonder how much of the Taxpayers money was spent to create a Political Mountain out of Molehill??
It's High Noon here in El Dorado County, with "Nutting" and "Pierson", in a Political Gunfight. As to who has the fastest Gun, the Good Guy or The bad Guy, is up to YOU, THE TAXPAYER?!?!