Sheriff Calls It Quits

George County Sheriff George Miller Sr.,a man hounded by legal trouble, health problems and bankruptcy, has resigned his position as sheriff. The George County Board of Supervisors on Friday named Donnie Parnell interim sheriff. Miller resigned on Thursday.

In his resignation letter, Miller, who has heart trouble, said he was stepping down on the advice of doctors. The supervisors voted unanimously to accept his resignation. ``It is clear that in my present condition it is in my best interest to give notice that I will no longer have the ability of safeguarding the lives in this community,'' Miller wrote to the supervisors. Miller had been sheriff since 1996, but has had growing personal problems.

A federal grand jury indicted Miller in November 2001 on charges of threatening a witness and perjury in a lawsuit involving his son, George Miller Jr. An FBI agent testified in October of 2001 that two people saw Miller threaten Jack Ware, director of the First National Bank of Lucedale. Ware had testified during the civil trial about fraud and racketeering acts that bank officials said caused the bank to lose about $8 million. A jury found that bank employees loaned money to the younger Miller without approval from the bank's board of directors. According to court records, Miller Sr. is expected to change his not guilty plea at a hearing scheduled for Oct. 7. A guilty plea to one or both of the felony charges would have forced him to resign; state law prohibits felons from holding state office. Miller's health problems delayed the trial several times and severely curtailed his ability to work this year. According to the George County District Attorney's Office, the Sheriff's Department has failed to investigate some felony cases this year, causing them to be dropped for lack of evidence. In April, Miller filed for bankruptcy, owing some $518,000 to creditors, according to a court filing. Miller was having his sheriff's wages garnished to help pay off his debts.

Supervisor Larry Havard said the board chose Parnell because the new sheriff said he would not run for the position next November. The supervisors could not add a special election to November's regular election because state law requires a notice of three months. Parnell was a Justice Court judge for 20 years, but does not have any other experience in law enforcement. Parnell said he plans to turn the department around. ``People say the Sheriff's Department is a joke,'' Parnell said. ``We intend to make it a straight line.''