New circuit clerk’s bond deemed sufficient by supes

Published 12:00 am Saturday, June 28, 2014

Interim circuit clerk Greg Peltz’s bond is good to go in the eyes of Warren County supervisors. 

Peltz’s surety bond with Travelers Casualty & Surety Company of America is good for $100,000 and valid through Dec. 31. It’s the same as his disgraced predecessor, with one major difference, as county officials were reminded Monday.

“This is our first bond to come in with Travelers,” Chancery Clerk Donna F. Hardy said as the document was presented to the county board.

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Western Surety, a unit of CNA Surety, based in Canada, is a party in the civil lawsuit involving former clerk Shelly Ashley-Palmertree, county supervisors and state auditors. The company is a party in the case and has defended itself vigorously in two sessions of Hinds County Chancery Court last winter and spring to protect as much of its interests as possible. Travelers, based in New York, insures the county on several pieces of infrastructure, including the courthouse.

The board hasn’t passed a resolution favoring one bonding company over another, but clearly has sought to persuade all county elected officials, their deputies and employees subject to being bonded to choose anyone but Western. The North American subsidiary bonds nearly all of Warren County government and its parent company has accounts worldwide.

“I’m beginning to wonder if we are wasting our money buying bonds,” Board President Bill Lauderdale said as the board unanimously voted Peltz’s bond to be sufficient. “It doesn’t seem like it does any good when somebody does something wrong.”

In August 2013, CNA refunded to the county $759.64 in premiums to cancel a $100,000 surety on Palmertree due to her legal problems. In between, Palmertree posted a new bond, from United States Fire Insurance Company. On May 19, supervisors declared the circuit clerk’s office vacant and appointed Peltz, a former retail store manager. State auditors presented documents to the board showing Palmertree had declared residence in Madison County and planned to purchase a home in Canton.

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. The clerk and the other entities have asked the court to decide whether she owes $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 Monday, attorneys for the state and county asked Thomas to amend the overall case to pursue $156,500 they say Palmertree owes in over-the-cap fees for 2012. The amount had been demanded after the original suit was filed.

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.