Clerk late turning in ’13 books, county says

Published 10:44 am Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Monday. ( Eli Baylis  / Vicksburg Post )

The latest report of lax accounting from Circuit Clerk Shelly Ashley-Palmertree might cross over into the state’s criminal case as evidence against the clerk.

County supervisors said they’ll notify Attorney General Jim Hood that logs of the office’s financial activity for 2013 were not turned in to the state auditor’s office by April 15, the deadline for fee-based officials in Mississippi to turn in such documentation for routine auditing.

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“She filed her annual report on April 15, but she has not turned in her books for the audit to be finalized,” board attorney Marcie Southerland told supervisors at the end of a closed session that dealt with matters relating to the clerk’s legal issues.

Annual reports filed by circuit and chancery clerks in the state are akin to

a 1040 form for individual federal income tax returns, showing totals for money coming in and going out to those offices. More detailed books accompany those submissions and deal with line-by-line explanations of activity in office fee accounts.

A letter laying out the overdue paperwork will be sent to Hood’s office, which will also receive a visit from Southerland, board president Bill Lauderdale and County Administrator John Smith.

No date has been set for the criminal trial. The state says Palmertree inappropriately transferring funds from her office’s criminal and civil accounts to her personal account on two separate occasions in 2012. The amounts total $12,000.

A civil case between Palmertree, State Auditor Stacey Pickering, Warren County, and CNA Surety is set to continue Oct. 6 in Hinds County Chancery Court. The clerk and the other entities have asked the court to decide whether she owed $671,751.75 in excessive salary and questionable subcontractor payments to her father and predecessor in office, Larry Ashley, between 2006 and 2011. Mediation ordered in the case after testimony in December broke down in January.

On the agenda

Meeting Monday the Warren County Board of Supervisors:

• On a 3-2 vote, approved 76 amended applications for homestead exemption for tax year 2013 and 2014.

The move seeks to check whether 71 of the 76 taxpayers who seek the routine tax break for 2013 amended their application by April 1, the deadline the board recognizes for amending a prior year tax bill. Since February 1, when 2013 property taxes came due for property owners countywide, the board and the Tax Assessor’s Office have dueled verbally on the issue, with each citing parts of state law that observed one deadline April 1 and another Aug. 31.

Supervisors Richard George picked up support from supervisors Bill Lauderdale and John Arnold that will approve refunds on 2013 taxes only for those who met the earlier deadline. Many of the 76 qualify for the exemption due to being either 65 years old or being disabled.

Tax Assessor Angela Brown had favored the later deadline, commenting Monday that some applicants, particularly the elderly, have problems reading or understanding postcards her office sends annually that inform taxpayers of expected changes in the value of their property.

• Approved invoices totaling $57,589.49 from county engineer John McKee for various engineering services and $20,202.50 from board attorney Marcie Southerland for legal services. A $14,328.50 chunk of the legal bills were tied to actions tied to Circuit Clerk Shelly Ashley-Palmertree.

• Approved an interfund loan to a special assessment fund set up in 2011 to pay off a loan secured to pave roads in Fairways, Forest Cove and Amberleaf subdivisions.

• Approved in advance of any public advertisements an arrangement to finance engineering costs for work to shore up Haining Road, the main access route to the Port of Vicksburg.

County engineer John McKee recommended the board do so at a cost of 15 percent of construction costs.

The work is being financed by $1.59 million in funds left over from grant money originally secured to clear bayous inside the City of Vicksburg.

• Approved seeking guidance from the Natural Resources Conservation Service to see if erosion along Bowmar Avenue can qualify for shoring-up via the service’s emergency watershed program.

Supervisors Charles Selmon, William Banks and John Arnold supported the move.