Convicted clerk Harris loses race

Published 9:53 pm Wednesday, August 29, 2007

FAYETTE — Jefferson County Circuit Clerk Burnell Harris lost to challenger Arnell Harried by approximately 500 votes in Tuesday’s runoff.

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

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

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Attorney General Jim Hood said soon after that a Mississippi Supreme Court case says a person cannot be removed from office until he is sentenced.

Harris’ sentencing is scheduled for October.

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

Harried said he thought the conviction affected the election in Harris’ favor.

“I think he received a lot of sympathy votes,” he said.

Harried said he could learn some from his predecessor if given the chance.

“He was always a nice fellow, a really good guy” Harried said. “Everybody in the community liked him. I’m quite sure I can learn something from him if he and I can get together one day and communicate.”

The Adams County circuit clerk, M.L. “Binkey” Vines, also lost in Tuesday’s runoff. Vines pleaded guilty to three counts of embezzlement in May, and 10 other counts were dropped. The judge withheld accepting Vines’ plea, allowing him to remain in office and run for re-election.

In Adams County, Democratic workers began counting the approximately 550 absentee and affidavit ballots by hand Wednesday. They finished 11 precincts and plan to continue Thursday.