Convicted circuit clerk Harris loses re-election bid

Published 6:10 pm Friday, August 31, 2007

Jefferson County Circuit Clerk Burnell Harris, who will be sentenced Oct. 3 for embezzlement, has lost his bid for re-election.

Harris was defeated Tuesday in the Democratic runoff by challenger Arnell Harried.

Harris was convicted by a federal jury in July of three counts of embezzlement, two counts of money laundering and four counts of tax evasion.

Sign up for our daily email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

A federal indictment accused Harris, 52, of embezzling more than $222,000 between Oct. 1, 2000, and Sept. 30, 2003 from Jefferson County and then trying to hide the money.

Harris also was convicted of filing false tax returns from 2000 to 2004 to avoid paying $160,598 in income taxes.

Harris faces a maximum 70 years in prison and more than $2 million in fines.

In Mississippi, convicted felons are not allowed to hold public office. However, Attorney General Jim Hood issued an opinion that the ban did not kick in until after sentencing.

Harris, who had served as clerk for 24 years, chose to run for re-election.

Harris received 1,109 votes in the runoff, while Harried received 1,603, according to the Jefferson County Circuit Clerk’s Office.

Harried said Wednesday he thought the results showed the people were ready for a change.

“They want to go in a different direction,” Harried said. “That’s a positive concept.”