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Auditor demands more than $200,000 from chancery clerk

Mississippi’s state auditor is demanding that a southwest Mississippi official repay more than $200,000 to county government.

State Auditor Shad White on Thursday released a report saying Lincoln County Chancery Clerk Tillmon Bishop needs to repay the money, The Daily Leader of Brookhaven reported.

Auditors contend Bishop improperly paid eight employees with $163,000 in county money instead of fees collected by the chancery clerk’s office. They also say Bishop improperly paid $53,000 in salary and expenses after the end of the 2017 budget year.

Bishop said no money has been taken from his office and the findings were due to errors in bookkeeping. He said there’s confusion in part because he wrote a check from the account that holds fees back to another account that holds county-provided money to settle money that was earlier transferred between accounts. Bishop said he intends to meet with auditors to try to resolve discrepancies.

“The audit department has not discussed this with me, and it’s not an issue that any money is missing,” Bishop said.

The auditor’s office wrote in the report that it’s investigating Bishop. He doesn’t plan to seek re-election in 2019 after 20 years in the post.

The audit cites a number of other accounting problems in Bishop’s office. It also says he said he didn’t keep adequate minutes for the county board of supervisors and is running months behind, was paid at improper times for acting as the board’s clerk, and that the county made improper interest-free loans to Bishop’s office to cover payroll.

The report also noted the previously announced demand that Lincoln County supervisors pay back the county $1.6 million for improper insurance payments to cover dependents of county employees. The county is suing its insurance carrier, seeking to recoup the money.

Lincoln County Circuit Clerk Dustin Bairfield was also cited in the report for claiming unallowable advertising expenses and is required to repay $1,315 to the county’s general fund.

State Auditor Shad White said in a press release Thursday his office wants to work with Lincoln County leadership to “make the taxpayers whole.”

“We want to see the issues raised in this audit resolved,” he said. “My office is charged with protecting the taxpayers and enforcing the law, and that’s what we are doing in this case.”

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