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Palmertree serves less than two years of five-year sentence

Former Warren County Circuit Clerk Shelly Ashley-Palmertree is out on parole from the Mississippi Department of Corrections, where she was serving a five-year sentence for two counts of embezzlement of county funds, according to MDOC’s website.

An MDOC spokesperson said Palmertree was released Sept. 14. She was sentenced on the first embezzlement count Sept. 29, 2014.

Her parole is being supervised in Madison County, the spokesperson said. Palmertree moved there sometime in 2013. Information she was living in another county forced the Warren County Board of Supervisors to remove her from office for violating state law requiring elected county officials to live in the county where they were elected.

“We as district attorneys have no control over the Mississippi Department of Corrections and their decision when to and when not to parole prisoners, based on their criteria for release,” District Attorney Ricky Smith said. “We knew she was up for parole. Many times we will not know (if someone has been paroled) until after parole is granted.”

“We heard that she had been released, but we don’t have any other details at all,” Board of Supervisors President Richard George said.

County administrator John Smith said Palmertree was up for parole once before, and the supervisors wrote the state Parole Board a letter objecting to her release.

In that particular situation, parole was denied, he said. “And that was last we’ve heard of her,” he said.

Palmertree was initially sentenced to five years in prison after pleading guilty in Circuit Court to stealing $12,000 from civil and criminal fee accounts under her care as circuit clerk.

She pleaded guilty in March 2015 to a second embezzlement charge involving the theft of $103,736.75 meant for restitution to crime victims from an account under her care between Jan. 1, 2013, until supervisors removed her from office May 15, 2014.

Circuit Judge Isadore Patrick sentenced her to five years to be served concurrent, or at the same time, with the 2014 sentence.

Palmertree repaid the $12,000 taken in the first count, and $20,000 in reimbursement on the second count.

Patrick ordered her to pay $1,250 a month until a balance of $67,164.64 is paid. She also had to pay the district attorney’s investigative cost of $2,586.38.

The 2014 sentence came as Palmertree was involved in a separate civil case in Hinds County Chancery Court she initiated in March 2013. The state auditor claimed Palmertree was paid $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.

At one point the total was estimated at more than $1.04 million after interest and investigative fees from the State Auditor’s Office, which filed the initial claim against her.

Hinds County Chancery Judge Dewayne Thomas in April 2015 ordered Palmertree to pay more than $818,251.75 in restitution to the county.

Smith said CNA Surety Co., which had Palmertree’s bond, paid $100,000, and the county has received more than $275,000 from Palmertree.

Besides uncovering the excessive salary, the auditor’s investigation also revealed Palmertree was living in a house in Canton, when investigators found an affidavit of residence for the Madison County School District signed by the Palmertree and dated July 23, 2013.

The clerk wrote 114 Fairchild Cove in Canton as her permanent residence.

The probe also produced a lease-purchase agreement between the her and the residence’s owners, and two utility bills, one from Entergy for $422.35 and one from AT&T for Internet and TV service for $142.32.

About John Surratt

John Surratt is a graduate of Louisiana State University with a degree in general studies. He has worked as an editor, reporter and photographer for newspapers in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. He has been a member of The Vicksburg Post staff since 2011 and covers city government. He and his wife attend St. Paul Catholic Church and he is a member of the Port City Kiwanis Club.

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