Justices again rule against Palmertree

Published 10:44 am Friday, April 11, 2014

A second ruling by a three-judge panel of the Mississippi Supreme Court in five months involving Circuit Clerk Shelly Ashley-Palmertree has gone against the besieged clerk in her complex legal fight with the state auditor and Warren County.

Justices Michael K. Randolph, James Kitchens and Leslie King on Wednesday upheld an earlier ruling from Hinds County Chancery Court restricting Palmertree from dipping into public money to pay for legal defense.

In November, a panel of justices Randolph, King and Josiah Coleman ruled in favor of the county’s request for extraordinary relief from the state relating to her first surety bond being pulled. The petition as such grew out of circuit court rulings that thwarted supervisors’ attempt last summer to declare her office vacant. Each side cited separate parts of state law on the bond matter. Since justices ruled, however, no move has been made to vacate the office.

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A second half of testimony starts 9 a.m. Monday before Hinds Chancellor Dewayne Thomas. The trial continues Tuesday and Thursday. Court-ordered mediation talks in the case broke down in January, which had followed a three-day trial in December.

At issue in the civil case, which Palmertree filed 13 months ago against Warren County and, is whether she owes the county $671,751.75 in excessive salary above the state-set cap for circuit and chancery clerks and questionable subcontractor payments to her father and predecessor in office, Larry Ashley. The state and county countersued last April and contend the payments the state were improper. That countersuit also included CNA Surety, the parent of Western Surety Company, which insures most county officials and had bonded Palmertree during her first 8 1⁄2 years in office.

Frank Vollor represents Palmertree in the civil case. In a separate criminal case, Palmertree is accused of inappropriately transferring funds from her office’s criminal and civil accounts to her personal account. The amounts total $12,000. Jackson attorney Joe Hollaman represents her in that case; Attorney General Jim Hood is prosecuting it.