Circuit clerk charged with embezzlement of funds

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, September 19, 2006

NATCHEZ &8212; A grand jury indictment served Thursday alleges Adams County Circuit Clerk M.L. &8220;Binkey&8221; Vines embezzled $228,760 in county money. Vines turned himself in to the Adams County Sheriff&8217;s Office Thursday afternoon. He faces 13 counts of embezzlement.

Agents from the Mississippi Office of the State Auditor and the Mississippi Attorney General&8217;s Office arrested Vines.

He was booked into the Adams County Jail at 1:02 p.m. and was released at 1:40 p.m. on a $25,000 recognizance bond. In this type of bond, a defendant promises to pay money to the judge if he does not appear in court at the set time., Sheriff Ronny Brown said Thursday.

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Vines&8217; will be arraigned at 10 a.m. today in Adams County Circuit Court.

Vines could not be reached for comment, but his attorney Claude &8220;Buck&8221; Pintard said they would fight the charges.

&8220;My only reaction is he&8217;s not guilty,&8221; Pintard said. &8220;I will represent him &8212; me, my son and as many as I can recruit to help.&8221;

In a statement, State Auditor Phil Bryant said his office appreciated the attorney general&8217;s office&8217;s help.

&8220;It is important for the public to know justice will be served,&8221; Bryant said.

In a statement combined with Bryant&8217;s, Attorney General Jim Hood said he hoped his office could resolve the matter quickly.

&8220;It is unfortunate when our public officials are accused of wrongdoing,&8221; Hood said. &8220;However, it is our duty to enforce the law.&8221;

In past audits, Vines has been cited for bookkeeping problems. Other findings report that Vines did not file required documents with the state and has bounced various checks written to the county.

Each time, he said he would correct the problems.

Understated fees and lack of documentation were some of the problems in the 2003 audit. The charges on the indictment cover the fiscal year of 2002-2003.

Adams County Circuit Judge Lillie Blackmon Sanders said Thursday both she and Judge Forrest Johnson had recused themselves from the case.

&8220;He&8217;s our clerk,&8221; Sanders said. &8220;I don&8217;t think I could work with him every day. That would be unfair.&8221;

A judge from Coahoma County will preside, Brown said.