Lawsuit filed against supervisors

Published 12:00 am Saturday, December 19, 2009

NATCHEZ — A civil suit filed by Berkley Surety Group against the Adams County Board of Supervisors will set the county’s budget back $28,632.05 in January.

The civil suit — filed Dec. 3 — stems from former Circuit Clerk M.L. “Binkey” Vines’ Nov. 12, 2007, guilty plea to charges of the embezzlement of $228,760 in Adams County money.

Vines repaid all the embezzled money before pleading guilty, but was ordered to pay $40,132.05 — an amount that included an 8-percent interest rate and the cost of legal fees.

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Of the $40,132.05, Vines was ordered to, and did, repay the county $28,632.05.

The Berkley group’s civil suit is founded on this particular payment and the bond that the county signed with the company to cover Vines as he served as circuit clerk.

This payment was received after the county obtained the same amount from the company that provided Vines’ bond.

“It never crossed any of our minds that that money was duplicated,” County Administrator Cathy Walker said. “The bond company is just trying to get their money back.”

Walker said the money received from the bonding company in December 2007 was placed into the county’s general fund, as was Vine’s payment in January 2008.

Board Attorney Bobby Cox said the reimbursement the county received from the bonding company should have been repaid in 2008 when Vine’s payment was received.

“It was just used by the county,” Cox said. “It fell through the cracks.”

Berkley Surety Group said in its complaint that the company had contacted the board of supervisors several times, only to be denied their request.

“Despite multiple demands from Berkley upon the county for reimbursement of the $28,632.05 by which the county has been overpaid, Adams County has failed and refuses to repay the same to Berkley,” the complaint against the board reads.

However, Walker said the county knew nothing of the company’s complaint until earlier this year.

“Bobby Cox had brought a letter from them in at some point in the past to ask about the over payment and for us to check into it,” Walker said. “As far as I know, no one in the county has ever refused to pay it. In fact, immediately after they filed the suit, it was discussed that we needed to repay it.”

Cox contacted the surety group on Feb. 25, 2009, and sent in information of when payments from Vines and the surety company — via the State Auditor’s Office — were received by the county.

And since Dec. 3 when the civil suit was filed at the Adams County Chancery Court, Cox said payment negotiations have been solidified.

“We did our accounting, and we’re going to send the money back,” Cox said. “It will be taken care of, and the money will be refunded on Jan. 4.”

However, the company has set its stipulations.

The county will be paying 8 percent interest on the payment from and after Jan. 2, 2008, until the reimbursement is paid in full.

Walker said the $28,632.05 reimbursement to the surety group was not planned for and was not considered when making this year’s county budget.

However, since the money received from the surety company in 2007 went into the general county fund, Walker said the reimbursement will be paid from the same fund.

Cox said he believes once the surety company is reimbursed, the company will drop its charges.