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Hands in the Till

Embezzlement of Public Monies in Mississippi

James R. Crockett

Publication Year: 2007

In 2004 Corporate Crime Reporter asserted that Mississippi was the most crooked state in America. By comparing the number of federal corruption convictions over the past decade and the 2002 population of the state, the conclusion was inescapable. Too many officials were robbing the public they had sworn to serve and protect.

Hands in the Till: Embezzlement of Public Monies in Mississippi establishes the scope of a major crisis in a poor state where needs are many and funds are scarce. The book highlights the tireless work of the Office of the State Auditor in investigating the theft of public money and bringing criminals to justice.

This book reports on thirty-seven cases that demonstrate how and why embezzlement occurs, how it is discovered and investigated, and how the state's justice system deals with perpetrators. The greedy schemes can be as outrageous as they are disheartening. Case histories narrated here involve a variety of public servants and others including chancery clerks, circuit clerks, justice court clerks, city clerks, sheriffs, tax collectors, school and college administrators, and employees of organizations that receive public money.

James R. Crockett is professor emeritus of accountancy and information systems at the University of Southern Mississippi.

Published by: University Press of Mississippi

Title Page, Copyright Page

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pp. i-iv

Contents

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pp. vii-ix

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Preface

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pp. xi-xviii

Phil Bryant became state auditor November 1, 1996, after he was appointed by Governor Kirk Fordice to complete the remaining term of Steve Patterson. Patterson had resigned his elected office after pleading guilty to a misdemeanor charge involving a false affidavit used to purchase license plates for a vehicle. Bryant was elected to a full term in 1999 and reelected in 2003. ...

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Acknowledgments

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pp. xix-

I thank the University of Southern Mississippi for granting me a sabbatical leave in the fall of 2004 to jump-start this project. While many people provided encouragement and support, the contributions of several in particular must be acknowledged. Mississippi State Auditor Phil Bryant encouraged me to focus on the embezzlement...

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Introduction

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pp. 1-6

The Random House College Dictionary defines malfeasance as "the performance by a public official of an act that is legally unjustified, harmful, or contrary to law." This book spotlights embezzlement of public funds in Mississippi and the involvement of the Office of the State Auditor in investigating such malfeasance and recovering public monies. Thirty-seven representative cases are examined in detail to illustrate how the embezzlements were perpetrated, what...

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Chapter 1. Chancery and Circuit Clerks

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pp. 7-63

In order to understand the eight embezzlements that have occurred in chancery and circuit clerks' offices that are chronicled in this section, it is helpful to review the fee system of compensation and the duties and requirements of the offices. The following is a brief summary of the fee system—how fees are earned, some duties of the clerks, how the clerks' operations are financed, and problems associated with the system. ...

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Chapter 2. Tax Assessors/Collectors

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pp. 64-101

Each of Mississippi's eighty-two counties elects a tax assessor/collector every four years. A brief review of the duties of this politically charged office will set the stage for the six cases briefed in this section. The tax assessor/collector submits a proposed budget for the upcoming fiscal year to the county board of supervisors (BOS) at its July meeting. The board, which must adopt a budget by September 15, may accept or modify...

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Chapter 3. Justice Court Clerks and Sheriffs' Employees

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pp. 102-129

Mississippi counties elect sheriffs every four years. Boards of supervisors fund the operation of sheriffs' departments through county budgets. Money is collected by sheriffs in the form of fines, bonds, and payments from other government entities. Monies are "settled" by sheriffs to the county, other government units, and to individuals, e.g., return of bond money. Sheriffs are charged with properly establishing accountability for monies received and...

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Chapter 4. City Clerks

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pp. 130-147

Officials of Mississippi cities are required to establish accountability for and protect all monies that flow into their cities. They are also required to account for disbursements properly and to ensure the legality of disbursements. Annual audits are required for each of the state's incorporated municipalities. These audits are usually performed by CPA firms. In fact, the OSA is prohibited by statute from auditing a municipality unless a complaint has been filed...

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Chapter 5. Schools

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pp. 148-191

Officials of public school districts, community colleges, and universities are required by law to establish accountability for and protect all monies that flow into their units. These officials must also ensure that all disbursements made by their units are legal, properly documented, and that the accounting for each disbursement is proper. The OSA has audit authority for public...

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Chapter 6. Other

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pp. 192-220

The Monroe County district attorney's office registered a complaint with the OSA on July 24,1998. The complaint alleged that Keith Blaylock, who had been executive director of the Economic Development Partnership (EDP) of Monroe County since February 1995, had embezzled approximately $40,000 of Amory Railroad Festival funds. Blaylock also held the position of secretary/treasurer of the Amory Railroad Festival ...

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Epilogue

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pp. 221-226

Mississippi public officials continue their corrupt practices unabated, and unfortunately it affects the poorest of the Magnolia State's citizens. A January 3, 2005, Clarion-Ledger front-page headline read: "Alleged Holmes corruption fits disturbing trend." The article by investigative reporter Jerry Mitchell explained why. ...

Sources

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pp. 227-233

Index

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pp. 235-240


E-ISBN-13: 9781621033936
E-ISBN-10: 1578069351
Print-ISBN-13: 9781578069354

Publication Year: 2007