Palmertree civil case begins again Tuesday

Published 8:58 am Monday, January 5, 2015

Testimony begins again Tuesday in Hinds County Chancery Court in the still-unresolved civil trial of jailed ex-circuit clerk Shelly Ashley-Palmertree.

Attorney Marcie Southerland said the 9 a.m. start time is the lone given in a list of eight dates between Jan. 6 and Feb. 24 reserved for hearings in the case by Chancellor Dewayne Thomas. Southerland, Warren County’s former attorney of record, was kept on the case by county supervisors.

The rest of the days will be used if attorneys in the case determine it’s needed, Southerland said.

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At issue in the civil case, which Palmertree filed in March 2013 against Warren County and State Auditor Stacey Pickering, 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 amounts cover activity from 2006 through 2011. The state and county countersued and contend the payments were improper. Court-ordered mediation talks began in December 2013 and broke down a month later. The case was continued after three days of testimony last April. Southerland and lawyers for the state amended their complaint to include payments in 2012 deemed improper, bringing the total claim to more than $1.04 million.

Her attorney in previous phases of the trial, former circuit judge Frank Vollor, quit the case in September, citing in court documents she was unable to continue paying him for his services. The case’s impact on the public purse is found in the legal bills paid to Southerland for working the case. Jackson attorney Marc Brand now represents her.

From August 2013 through October 2014, invoices for work tied to the case reached $100,834.26. Part of the county’s complaint against Palmertree includes reimbursements for all legal expenses in the case.

Palmertree is serving a five-year sentence in the Rankin County satellite prison facility for embezzling $12,000 from her office’s civil and criminal accounts. Those accounts hold fines and fees associated with civil and criminal cases.

In October, she was indicted a second time, this time for embezzling about $100,000 from the office’s restitution fund — an account set aside to hold funds payable to victims of crime — and falsifying her record books.

A trial on those charges is set for April.  Brand also represents her in the criminal case.

Supervisors removed Palmertree from office last May after evidence surfaced that she was living in Madison. The county board appointed Greg Peltz as interim clerk. Jan Hyland Daigre defeated Peltz in a special election runoff Nov. 25 to fill Palmertree’s unexpired term.

Daigre, sworn in Dec. 1, may run for the office again in this year’s state/county election cycle.