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Hands in the Till

Hands in the Till: Embezzlement of Public Monies in Mississippi

James R. Crockett
Copyright Date: 2007
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  • Book Info
    Hands in the Till
    Book Description:

    In 2004Corporate Crime Reporterasserted 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 Mississippiestablishes 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.

    eISBN: 978-1-62103-393-6
    Subjects: Sociology

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-x)
  3. Preface
    (pp. xi-xviii)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xix-xxii)
  5. Introduction
    (pp. 1-6)

    TheRandom House College Dictionarydefines 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 motivated them, and how they were detected. The scope of the problem is portrayed with the goal of raising public awareness and indignation concerning the theft of public funds. It is hoped...

  6. 1. Chancery and Circuit Clerks
    (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.

    Under Mississippi law, chancery clerks and circuit clerks are elected officials who are paid from the fees they collect for their services. Prior to 1996, clerks were allowed to...

  7. 2. Tax Assessors/Collectors
    (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 the proposed amounts. Subsequently, the board appropriates a lump sum for the tax assessor/collector’s budget on a quarterly basis at the first meeting of each quarter beginning on...

  8. 3. Justice Court Clerks and Sheriffs’ Employees
    (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 with depositing receipts in a bank. Sheriffs are also required to properly document and account for all disbursements. The first case briefed in this section involves a sheriff’s clerk who embezzled more than $150,000....

  9. 4. City Clerks
    (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 with it alleging wrongdoing, or a strong indication of wrongdoing has been discovered in another manner. Section 7-7-211(7) of the Mississippi Code is relevant to this matter:


  10. 5. Schools
    (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 school districts and their various subunits, community colleges, and universities. This section describes four embezzlements from public high schools, one from a community college, and four from universities.

    The OSA received a complaint on October 21, 1997, from Kenneth Hughes, business manager...

  11. 6. Other
    (pp. 192-220)

    While the five cases of embezzlement briefed in this chapter are not easily categorized, Section 7-7-211(F) of the Mississippi Code gives the OSA audit authority over each entity involved. The code section reads as follows:

    [The OSA has the authority] [t]o post-audit and, when deemed necessary, pre-audit and investigate the financial affairs of the levee boards;agencies created by the Legislature or by executive order of the Governor; profit or nonprofit business entities administering programs financed by funds flowing through the State Treasury or through any of the agencies of the state, or its subdivisions; and all other public bodies...

  12. Epilogue
    (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-Ledgerfront-page headline read: “Alleged Holmes corruption fits disturbing trend.” The article by investigative reporter Jerry Mitchell explained why.

    Holmes County is one of the nation’s poorest counties, a place where poverty seems plentiful.

    So, why are there so many allegations of corruption in a place so little?

    District Attorney James Powell confirmed last week that Tissie Brocks, who oversaw the Holmes County Economic Development Authority, allegedly stole at least $80,000 by forging the names of those...

  13. Sources
    (pp. 227-234)
  14. Index
    (pp. 235-240)