Special Winner-takes-all Election to fill Supervisor Nutting's Vacated Seat
A surprise pronouncement by Judge Timothy S. Buckley vacated the seat held by former Supervisor Ray Nutting. The visiting judge and former prosecutor Buckley sentenced Ray Nutting for accepting loans for bail money. The bail was for disproved charges that Nutting was wrong to use a clean water grant to remove fire load from his property. The case went to court and the jury found Nutting not guilty of all but one charge. The Jury hung on one charge and the DA's office declined to re-file that charge.
But Nutting was found guilty of getting bail money from the wrong people. He is precluded by law from getting loans from employees or contractors that have a financial interest in decision a Supervisor would make. Two county employees and a long-time friend that also has county contracts loaned Nutting money for bail. This was illegal.
It would have been OK if they had taken the money to the jail and deposited it directly for Nutting's bail, but not to put into Nutting's hands to do the same thing. It also would have been legal for Nutting to have paid the DA's friend Chuck Holland $5,000 to have bailed him out. That was brought out in testimony where Holland describes himself as a personal friend to the District Attorney. The same District Attorney Nutting has accused of maliciously prosecuting him for political purposes.
Some people have described the charges on bail as "entrapment" because it would never had happened if he had not been charged with the unfounded charges that were disproved. Other see it it as a "technical foul." Still other's don't care about the process, as long as Nutting is forced out of office.
But this is all about process. We will leave the 'how did Nutting lose his office' for another story and focus on the process to refill the office.
Years ago, a vacancy like this could, and was, appointed by the Governor. Not surprising, this was counter to El Dorado County's strident application of self rule. To increase the County's Independence and self-rule, the county became a "Chartered" county.
Unknown to most is that there are three levels of government, Federal, State, and municipalities (Incorporated entities), but not counties. The Feds have their own rules, States have their own rules, and incorporated cities have their own rules, but counties are simply sub-divisions of the state. As such, counties can only work within the rules of their authorizing body, the state. There is an option for counties to increase their own Independence from the State by becoming Chartered.
The Charter for El Dorado County was ratified by majority vote at the election of November 8, 1994, and became effective when accepted and filed by the Secretary of State on December 27, 1994.
In the Charter, it dictates how to fill a vacated Supervisor's seat by election rather then appointment. The Charter's dictates on filling the seat are lawful and binding until such time as the voters change the Charter or State laws change regarding a Chartered County's authority in this area.
Charter section 203 reads, "203. Filling of Vacancies.
Whenever a vacancy occurs in the office of supervisor, the unexpired term shall be filled by election. If the vacancy occurs more than 90 days but less than 120 days before a scheduled primary, general, or special election, involving the district in which the vacancy has occurred, then the election to fill the vacancy shall be consolidated with the scheduled election. If the vacancy occurs more than 120 or less than 90 days before a scheduled primary, general, or special election involving the district in which the vacancy has occurred, then the vacancy shall be filled at a special election called by the Board of Supervisors to take place not less than 90 nor more than 120 days after the vacancy occurs. The special election shall be conducted in accord with the provisions of general state law regarding special elections. The candidate with the highest number of votes shall be elected to fill the unexpired term. [Amended by Charter Amendment ratified November 4,2004, effective December 14, 2004, Stats.2004, ch.16]
The key date to remember in this process is the date the office was vacated. This date is clear as the presiding Judge notified the County Clerk that the office was vacated on June 6th, 2014. In the Notice he wrote:
El Dorado County Board of Supervisors, 330 Fair Lane, Placerville, CA 95667
Re: Raymond James Nutting
To: El Dorado County Board of Supervisors,
Pursuant to GC 1771 you are hereby notified that because of convictions of misdemeanors involving a violation of his official duties, the office held by Raymond James Nutting is vacant.
Judge Timothy S. Buckley
Now to do some math. 90 - 120 days from June 6th is from Sept 4th to Oct 4th.
There are no regularly scheduled election within that period. The next election to cover that area is scheduled for the November general election. That does not meet the requirements of the County Charter. The terms of the Charter can only be changed by the voters and only via a fully-noticed election.
Elections are held on Tuesdays. The Tuesdays in the required time frame are between Tuesday Sept. 9th, and Tuesday Sept 30.
The BOS met on Monday in closed session and issued this notice:
"The Board of Supervisors received a letter from Judge Buckley that the District II Supervisor seat held by Supervisor Nutting is vacant as of the day of the letter, June 6, 2014. A copy of that letter will be given to the Clerk to attach to the record. That vacancy will be filled per County Charter by election. The Board will be holding an open session item within the next two weeks to set that election."
After the BOS has properly noticed an agenda item for action, the BOS will vote to authorize an election date. Due to the need to give voters, and candidates, maximum opportunity for candidates to campaign and voters to select the best representative to fill to remainder of the term, the date selected is likely to be in the later part of the time frame allowed.
We anticipate the BOS will select Sept 30, 2014 as the date for the election to fill the un-served term of the Supervisory seat.