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El Dorado County supervisor under fire for using grant funds

Ray Nutting defends use of taxpayer funds for clearing personal lands
By: Penne Usher, Telegraph Correspondent
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EL DORADO HILLS, CA - An El Dorado County Supervisor is under fire for reportedly utilizing tax payer funds to clear his personal property.

District 2 Supervisor Ray Nutting’s family owns more than 600 acres near Somerset, outside Placerville, and for the past several years he has taken advantage of a Cal Fire program providing grants to owners of forest lands to reduce fuel loads.

Nutting has made statements to the media that he collected about $70,000 of grant money in the past several years for work he’s done clearing brush and trimming trees on his forestry land. A portion of that money was through the Proposition 40 grant program.

Nutting said he’s done nothing wrong.

“The bottom line is I was doing what I was told to do by Cal Fire and my forester (in clearing his land). “We know that we asked all the right questions and there are no problems,” Nutting said during a phone interview Saturday. “I’m a taxpayer like everyone else. I’m also in the forestry business and hire professionals to handle my land.”

Cal Fire has grant opportunities for small forest landowners funded by Proposition 40, the California Clean Water, Clean Air, Safe Neighborhood Parks, and Coastal Protection Act of 2002.

The goal of the Proposition 40 Fuels Management Program is to contract with private landowners for mutually beneficial forest improvement and wildfire hazard reduction projects designed to reduce fuel loadings that pose a threat to watershed resources and water quality.

The El Dorado County Board of Supervisors sees things differently than Nutting.

In a statement released Friday, Chairman Ron Briggs said the Board of Supervisors was unaware of Nutting’s activity until a Sacramento news station broke the news last week.

“On behalf of the Board of Supervisors it is imperative for the public to know we do not condone any conversion of public money to personal use, period,” the statement reads. “I will be asking for a special board investigation into Mr. Nutting’s activities.”

Briggs went on in the release to say the board was also unaware that there is also an active criminal investigation focusing on Nutting’s actions.

The District’s Attorney’s office confirmed Friday there is an open investigation, however declined to comment further.

Briggs went on to say the board will take “appropriate steps to preserve the integrity of our board, county employees and citizens of El Dorado County ...”

Nutting said Saturday he’s hired local attorney David Weiner to handle any potential legal matters.