CONTACT: Lisa H. Shoemaker (601) 576-2645 or (601) 613-8518
DATE: September 8, 2011
State Auditor Returns $199,588 to Warren County
(Jackson, Miss.) State Auditor Stacey Pickering announced today that $199,588.16 will be returned to Warren County following an investigation into the handling of cash disbursements from the Circuit Clerk’s criminal and civil accounts by current Circuit Clerk Shelly Palmertree and former Circuit Clerk Larry Ashley. Palmertree made a final payment in the amount of $5,059.88 on September 6, 2011 to bring this issue to a resolution. Special agents determined that several payments withdrawn from these accounts were in excess of the amounts due to the Circuit Clerk at the time resulting in overpayment of the fees set by State Law. Excess amounts withdrawn from these accounts should have been returned to the court accounts or deposited into the general fund.
The investigation reviewed court accounts from 1999 through 2006 and a CPA firm reviewed court accounts through 2010. It was determined $164,858.60 was due from Palmertree for this time period and an additional $34,729.56 was owed to the county from Ashley.
“Circuit clerks receive certain statutory fees from the criminal and civil court accounts,” said State Auditor Stacey Pickering. “We became aware of this situation in 2005, and Mr. Ashley and Ms. Palmertree placed an estimated overpayment in a frozen account in 2006 as we worked to determine the full amount owed back to Warren County. Since that time, Ms. Palmertree has made several payments into this frozen account to cover the amounts due back to the court accounts. Our agents were able to provide Ms. Palmertree and Mr. Ashley with full amounts owed in May 2011, and I am happy to report these amounts will be repaid in full to Warren County.”
Mississippi Code Section 9-1-43 provides a salary limitation of $90,000 for both chancery and circuit clerks after any expenses are paid. Mississippi Code Section 25-7-13 provides what fees a circuit clerk may charge, including the fees that may be drawn out of the civil and criminal accounts.
Elected as Mississippi’s State Auditor in 2007, Stacey Pickering has recovered more than $4.8 million in embezzled, misspent or misappropriated funds. He is a seventh generation Mississippian from Jones County. Auditor Pickering currently serves on the Domestic Working Group for the Office of the Comptroller General of the United States. He also serves on the Financial Management and Intergovernmental Affairs and Performance Audit Committees for the National Association of State Auditors, Comptrollers and Treasurers and is a member of the National State Auditors Association. Prior to serving as State Auditor, Pickering served as a State Senator from 2004-2007 representing Jones County and is credited for co-authorizing legislation allowing Mississippi to end lawsuit abuse. Throughout his political career, Pickering has made tremendous strides in creating more accountability and transparency in government and continues to promote fiscal responsibility and the need for more efficiency and productivity in government. For more information on Stacey Pickering, visit www.osa.state.ms.us/auditors-bio.htm.