August 27, 2015

85° Fair

The results of nepotism in office

Published 12:07 am Sunday, May 25, 2014

The tab just keeps growing for former circuit clerk Shelly Ashley-Palmertree.
On top of more than a half a million dollars at the heart of drawn-out litigation in Hinds County Chancery Court, the ousted clerk had another nearly $230,000 added to charges of improper activity against her by State Auditor Stacey Pickering.
Pickering said his office served her with a civil demand for the amount based on fees he said she withdrew from the office’s civil and criminal fee accounts during calendar year 2013. Broken out, he said the amount includes $203,327.79 in principal; $18,669.23 in interest; and $7,882.99 in investigative costs. He said it brings the total amount of demands issued to her to $1,048,131.76.
With her ouster last week, for the first time in 27 years, someone not named Ashley heads the Warren County Circuit Clerk’s Office. With that bold move by the Warren County Board of Supervisors our community is free of nepotism in public office.
What remains is most likely a drawn-out legal battle on two fronts. The civil case, which Palmertree filed against Pickering and Warren County in March 2013 and was later countered, is set for a third round of testimony Oct. 6 before Hinds Chancellor Dewayne Thomas. Also a criminal embezzlement case against Palmertree goes to trial Sept. 29 in Warren County Circuit Court before appointed Judge Henry Lackey, according to the Attorney General’s Office, which is prosecuting the case. In it, the state says Palmertree inappropriately transferred funds from her office’s criminal and civil accounts to her personal account on two separate occasions in 2012. The amounts total $12,000.
Accounting procedure issues in the circuit clerk’s office date back to the start of Palmertree’s term, in 2004, according to county audits. Too often we vote someone into office thinking they are capable and well suited for a position because a family member held a position and served the public well.
Not all the fault lies with Palmertree though. The board of supervisors was aware of issues with accounting procedures and chose to not vigorously pursue the issue. The problems only continued to fester for 10 long years before coming to a head this week. Elections are just a few months away and our community deserves the best candidate for the job.