- Associated Press - Monday, May 19, 2014

VICKSBURG, Miss. (AP) - The Warren County Board of Supervisors has forced Circuit Clerk Shelly Ashley Palmertree from office after finding that she doesn’t live in the county.

The board voted unanimously Monday following a hearing on the evidence. In July 2013, Palmertree told the Madison County school district she lived there, according to evidence presented by State Auditor Stacey Pickering’s office.

Spokesman Brett Kitteredge said the auditor’s office received a tip that Palmertree was living near Canton. State law requires circuit clerks to live in the county where they serve.

Palmertree’s criminal lawyer couldn’t immediately be reached for comment Monday.

Immediately following the vote, supervisors changed locks to the circuit clerk’s office and issued an order to freeze bank accounts under Palmertree’s control. The office stayed closed Monday while state auditor’s investigators and auditors counted all cash and checks, and reviewed documents and other accounts.

“We are grateful to the auditor’s office for assisting us with this unusual set of circumstances,” Board of Supervisors President Bill Lauderdale said in a statement. “Fortunately, this kind of situation does not occur very often and we appreciate an office with statewide jurisdiction assisting us with this local matter.”

It’s the latest installment in a long-running pursuit by the auditor’s office after it determined Palmertree clerk had improperly pocketed money above state-allowed fee caps. The auditor’s office has demanded Palmertree repay $817,000 in excessive salary and fees.

Palmertree sued Warren County and Pickering a year ago in Hinds County Chancery Court, saying she doesn’t owe the county $671,751 in excessive salary and subcontractor fees paid to her father and predecessor in office, Larry Ashley. The auditor says that represents overcharges from 2006 to 2011, with the additional $156,000 coming after that. The next hearing on that case is set for Oct. 6.

Palmertree also faces an embezzlement indictment that she inappropriately moved money from criminal and civil accounts into the account from which she is paid. That trial is currently set for Sept. 29

“Today’s action by the board removes her from the position of overseeing Warren County’s business which is a good move,” Pickering said in a statement.

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