County board reps to have “full authority” to take part in mediation with clerk

Published 11:00 am Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Warren County supervisors assured themselves they’ll have a strong voice at the bargaining table on Thursday when two of them sit down with lawyers for embattled Circuit Clerk Shelly Ashley-Palmertree.
Board of Supervisors President Bill Lauderdale and District 1 Supervisor John Arnold have been designated to represent the board at the court-ordered talks that ostensibly will lead to a settlement of the multifaceted civil case brought by the clerk 10 months ago. In December, Hinds County Chancellor Dewayne Thomas ordered the case to mediation after a three-day trial. At issue is whether the clerk owes $671,751.75 in excessive salary and subcontractor fees the state says were improper. The amount dates from 2006 through 2011.
On Monday, the board voted to grant Lauderdale and Arnold “full authority to negotiate in the process” after board attorney Marcie Southerland recommended doing so. They recessed to 9 a.m. Friday to tackle “whatever action it deems appropriate,” Southerland said. Guidelines in the mediation agreement say finalization of a deal can happen at the board’s next formal board meeting six days from today, at the earliest.
Ridgeland attorney Larry Latham will moderate the private sessions at the offices of Jackson law firm Brunini, Grantham, Grower & Hewes PLLC. Communication is confidential and will not be disclosed to any third parties without a court order, according to the guidelines.
If the parties are unable to reach an agreement, the case moves back to Hinds County Chancery Court on April 15-18.
On Wednesday, the three-term clerk was indicted on three felony counts of embezzlement, the second indictment pursued by the state against Palmertree since August. The first one was canceled due to processing technicalities. The Attorney General’s Office is prosecuting the case, which goes to trial March 24.