Former circuit clerk removed from office

Published 12:10 pm Monday, November 12, 2007

NATCHEZ — At his hearing Monday, M.L “Binkey” Vines was removed from his post as circuit clerk by Judge Joe Webster.

In addition, Vines received a one-year suspended sentence and one year of supervised probation.

“We are very disappointed with the ruling,” said Claude “Buck” Pintard, Vines’ attorney.

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Pintard said he felt that evidence produced by the attorney general’s office did not prove that Vines intentionally withheld financial records from his office.

The missing records in question were Vines’ criminal, civil and garnishment journals from 2006.

And in a new development, it was learned during the hearing that Vines had turned in his records just last Friday.

Those same records were requested by the county’s contracted auditor Switzer, Hopkins and Mange 11 months ago.

Susan Mange testified that the lack of Vines’ records, until Friday, caused the auditor to issue a limited opinion on the county’s finances.

Mange also testified that her office made numerous attempts to contact Vines and his office in order to get his records.

Mange said her office called and wrote letters to Vines’ office all in an effort to get Vines’ records.

Vines’ attorneys also tried to show that Vines may have never actually seen a letter requesting his records from Switzer, Hopkins and Mange from December of 2007.

Mange said the letter was hand delivered to Vines’ office, but Pintard said if the letter was left on Vines’ desk it could be possible he was never aware of it.

In fact, much of the argument presented by Vines’ lawyers attempted to show that Vines was simply unaware that Switzer Hopkins and Mange needed his records at all.

To counter the argument, state’s attorney Brandon Ogburn called President of the Adams County Board of Supervisors, Darryl Grennell to testify.

Grennell said in his testimony that on May 21, 2007, Vines was called before the Adams County Board of Supervisors and told that the auditing firm needed his records to complete the Adams County audit.

Vines at that time, Grennell said, told the board he would comply with their request.

However Vines’ records were not received until Nov. 9.

And the board, Grennell said, has still never seen any of Vines’ records.

Webster said his original order that said Vines must comply with all requests of the state auditor’s office did not leave much room for error.

Webster said he was surprised by Vines’ reluctance to cooperate with auditor’s office when he said he thought Vines would have “jumped through hoops to get this done.”

On Sept. 26, 2006, Vines was indicted on 13 counts of embezzlement and pleaded guilty to three counts on May 4, 2007.

However Webster, an out-of-town judge appointed to the case withheld the acceptance of Vines’ plea and instead placed him on probation.

On Nov. 1, Attorney General Jim Hood’s office asked that Vines be sentenced for his failure to comply with requests of the state auditor’s.

“We appreciate the attorney general’s office moving on this issue,” S. Ross Aldridge, a spokesman with the auditor’s office, said.

Aldridge also said that the auditor’s office has received $72,847.17 in restitution from Vines’ bond company.