The Vicksburg Post
The Picayune Item
Spotted by a reporter in February near her office, the three-term clerk said her confusion lay in state law.
“I think the fee system needs to be revamped,” she said. “We just have to sit down with the board at some point.”
The second part was fluff. The only sit-downs have occurred in Hinds County Chancery Court, where Ashley-Palmertree sued the county and state to put the decision in a judge’s hands.
The first part? No truer words have been uttered.
In Mississippi, circuit and chancery clerks are paid by user fees and are some of the highest-paid local officials around — even when they don’t exceed the $90,000-a-year cap imposed by law. Before 2004, the cap was raised by about $5,000. Decades ago, no cap existed and the system was even riper for abuse.
Several offices in county government are paid according to population. That includes county supervisors, sheriffs, tax assessors, tax collectors and district attorneys. It makes for a system where the size of officials’ salaries are commensurate with the size of the tax base. Logic dictates that court clerks shouldn’t make so much more than supervisors, paid by population but in charge of setting the budget for all of county government.
This past week, the county tacked on an extra $86,434 in overages they say Ashley-Palmertree owes, stemming from overages noted on the clerk’s 2012 annual report. It’s not covered by the civil case, which covers amounts noted in state audits through 2011. Still, it makes for $748,185.75 in improper payments of some type to herself and to her father and predecessor in office, Larry Ashley, since 2006.
Only the Legislature can change the way court clerks are paid in Mississippi. Is nearly $1 million real enough to you, Mr. and Mrs. Legislator?