Alcorn purchasing clerk charged with inhibiting investigation

county_alcorn_greenBy JB Clark

Daily Journal

CORINTH – Alcorn County’s purchasing clerk was charged Thursday with hindering an investigation after representatives of the state auditor’s office allege he shared documents with an elected official who is being investigated for embezzlement.

During an unofficial information meeting before the Alcorn County Board of Supervisors, State Auditor Stacey Pickering said during the investigation, which has been ongoing since December, William Paul Rhodes, 54, went through investigation files, copied documents and shared them with Alcorn County District 2 Supervisor Jimmy Dal Nelms.

The affidavit charging Rhodes reveals the auditor’s office has been investigating Rhodes and Nelms, along with several Alcorn County vendors, for their alleged involvement in a conspiracy “designed to embezzle and/or convert money, equipment and property from Alcorn County,” since December.

The investigation followed a Dec. 12, 2013, complaint filed with the state auditor’s office.

Pickering said his agents were set up in the Alcorn County Board of Supervisors board room for a portion of their investigation and that is when Rhodes allegedly browsed and copied investigation documents.

The affidavit alleges Rhodes entered the room, opened the investigator’s notebooks and took photos. The photos were then allegedly sent to Nelms in an effort to help cover up the embezzlement.

Rhodes’ county-issued cellphone was seized and examined July 3, which is when the investigator alleged the photos and text messages to Nelms were discovered.

Pickering shared the investigation files that are public record.

Those documents show a large difference in spending between the county’s second district and the other districts on prisoner food and illegal dump site cleanup.

Prisoner food expenditures from Fiscal Year 2012 and January 2014 were between $4,000 and $6,500 for districts one, three, four and five but $12,945 in District 2.

During the same time period, District 2 spent more than $60,000 on illegal dump cleanups while the other districts spent between $0 and $17,785.

Pickering said they will not be commenting further on the investigation into Nelms but wanted to clear the air following the Thursday morning arrest of Rhodes.

After Rhodes was arrested and processed in Alcorn County, he was transported to the Lee County Justice Center where Circuit Court Judge Paul Funderburk set his bond at $10,000 and he was released on bond.

jb.clark@journalinc.com