PLACERVILLE, CA - An El Dorado County supervisor under fire for accepting tens of thousands of dollars in state money to clear brush on his private property insists he's done nothing wrong.
The district attorney's office confirmed a criminal investigation is underway into Supervisor Ray Nutting's use of state grants to reduce the fire hazard on hundreds of acres of family-owned timberland near Somerset.
County Auditor-Controller Joe Harn, who reviewed the contracts, said Nutting and his brother, Tom Nutting, have applied for nearly $200,000 in Proposition 40 fuels management funds over the past decade.
Harn points to one invoice in particular dated May 26, 2009 that led to a state reimbursement of $22,423.
Ray Nutting claimed he performed none of the labor himself, but submitted a bill from a company called Nutting Brush Clearing with his signature at the bottom.
"I would be shocked if this was determined to be legal," Harn said. "I'm a CPA and a county auditor and I work with grant accounting all the time. I believe Supervisor Nutting submitted a false claim."
Harn also believes Nutting has violated conflict of interest laws.
The Prop 40 money was channeled through the Sierra Coordinated Resources Management Council, which is comprised of six special districts.
Three of those special districts are in Nutting's jurisdiction and affected by his vote on the board.
Harn also points out the irony of a Tea Party Republican who advocates getting government out of the lives of private citizens accepting government money to improve his private property.
But a spokesman for Cal Fire, which oversees the Prop 40 program, says the agency is satisfied with the fire prevention work that was done for the price that was paid.
"We haven't found that (Nutting) has done anything wrong," said Daniel Berlant. "Everything's been documented very well and verified by an inspector."
Nutting said he and his attorney are drafting a statement they will make public next week.
"We've got documents that will show there's no case," he said.
by George Warren, GWarren@news10.net