- Associated Press - Wednesday, March 19, 2014

VICKSBURG, Miss. (AP) - Warren County Clerk Shelly Ashley-Palmertree has hired a new legal team and they need more time to learn the facts of the state’s criminal case against her.

That’s according to pleadings filed in court this month in advance of a trial on three counts of embezzlement. The Vicksburg Post reports (https://bit.ly/1d1lQwK) Palmertree’s trial, which was scheduled for Monday, has been postponed.

The trial has been rescheduled, with a date to be determined, said Jan Schaefer, spokeswoman for Attorney General Jim Hood.

The three-term clerk has hired Jackson law firm Joe M. Hollaman & Associates, according to a March 3 request filed in the case. Palmertree was previously represented by former circuit judge Frank Vollor and James “Buck” Penley Jr.

Palmertree “was served a superseding indictment in this cause and, additionally, has since retained new counsel, who will represent her on this matter going forward, and has not yet had sufficient time to obtain all discovery and to familiarize himself with the facts of this case,” according to part of the motion.

She was accused of inappropriately transferring funds on three occasions in 2012 from her office’s civil and criminal accounts into her circuit clerk fee account. The circuit clerk collects fines and fees and restitution in criminal and civil cases.

Between Feb. 2 and Feb. 21, 2012, she allegedly transferred $5,000 from her office’s criminal account into the account from which she draws her salary, according to the indictment. She is also accused of twice inappropriately transferring funds from the civil account into her personal account - once for $3,000 between Nov. 7 and Nov. 15 and once for $4,000 between Nov. 19 and Nov. 21.

Hood’s office will lead the criminal case against Palmertree. The case was first investigated by State Auditor Stacy Pickering’s Office, which turned over its findings to District Attorney Ricky Smith last April. Smith recused himself and gave the case to Hood, citing ethics rules that don’t allow prosecutors to have contact with defendants between indictment and trial.

Additional arguments in a civil case involving accounting procedures in the clerk’s office from 2006 through 2011 are set April 15, 16 and 18 in Hinds County Chancery Court. Court-ordered mediation talks in that case broke down in January. In December, Chancellor Dewayne Thomas ordered the talks at the conclusion of three days of testimony.

At issue in the civil case, which Palmertree filed against Warren County and Pickering a year ago Thursday, is whether she owes the county $671,751.75 in excessive salary and subcontractor fees paid to her father and predecessor in office, Larry Ashley.

The state and county countersued last April, contending the payments were improper.

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Information from: The Vicksburg Post, https://www.vicksburgpost.com

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