Former chancery clerk being investigated for corruption, misspending

Former chancery clerk being investigated for corruption, misspending

PEARL RIVER COUNTY, MS (WLOX) - A former Pearl River County chancery clerk is defending himself against allegations of illegal spending and shoddy record-keeping.

David Earl Johnson left office in January, leaving in his wake a trail of questions and concerns about how he handled the county's money. Now, his successor and other county supervisors are searching for the answers to these questions.

County supervisors say an investigation into the matter was opened Thursday by the Mississippi Attorney General's office, adding that they are also hiring an independent auditor to further investigate the allegations against Johnson.

"I'm with everybody else," said Donald Hart, a Pearl River county supervisor. "If there's something wrong, let's get to the bottom of it."

A YouTube video posted March 23 shows the board of supervisors quizzing Melinda Bowman, the current chancery clerk, about whether she's been able to sort through county records yet.

Bowman, who took over the position in January after Johnson left, says her predecessor did a lot of things wrong.

"Yes, there were some records that David Earl Johnson withheld purposefully," said Bowman. "There were several improprieties that went on."

"I don't feel like I've done anything wrong," said Johnson in a phone interview. "I've only tried to serve the people. I don't want to say anything else at this time."

Some of the county's computer records were lost during the transition from Johnson to Bowman, says county supervisor Malcolm Perry, which is only adding to the growing list of questions.

According to Perry, the county's information technology specialist says a Quickbooks program was erased from the chancery clerk's computer. Quickbooks is an accounting software often used to keep a digital record of business payments, manage and pay bills, and perform payroll functions.

"When I went to [Johnson] and asked him why he erased it, he just told me because the license was expired," said Perry. "If there were public documents kept on that Quickbooks, then that's a crime."

Bowman says she's anxiously awaiting the results of both investigations.

"The people of Pearl River County elected me to bring an open and transparent government to them." said Bowman.

She and other officials hope the questions raised are answered quickly so Pearl River County can move forward.

Despite the allegations of corruption and misspending, the chancery clerk's office is still functioning as usual.

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