One of three former Neshoba County employees who pleaded guilty to embezzling taxpayer monies in 2016 has yet to pay court-ordered restitution, according to records obtained by the Democrat.

Although out of prison, Julie Faye Russell, one of the women, is technically on parole, said District Attorney Steven Kilgore.

The three women were released from prison two years ago after serving one year of 10-year sentences in the $1.3 million overtime scandal.

They were ordered to pay a combined $118,067.39 to Neshoba County by a specially appointed circuit judge. 

Each had pleaded guilty to seven counts of embezzlement and are all out on house arrest after being sentenced to 25 years in prison.

Court records show Russell has not paid any of the $15,000 in restitution Judge William Barnett ordered in 2016.

Kilgore said he did not remember precisely how Russell’s plea agreement was structured, but that she is currently considered to be out on parole. Once her designation changes to “probation,” he said, she’ll be required to make her restitution payments.

“I know the others are making payments,” Kilgore said. “But (Russell) is not required to make her first payment until she is assigned a probation officer and they determine what she should pay each month.”

It is unclear whether Russell is still drawing state retirement. Kilgore said prosecutors “started to get into all that” during negotiations, but ultimately determined the total amount of the restitution was more important than how she would pay it back.

“We decided to leave that up to them as to how she pays it back,” Kilgore said of the state Department of Corrections.

Tammy Gomillion, former purchasing clerk, has made four payments totaling $750, including $550 in June and $100 payments in both July and August. She still owes $41,951 on her total of the $42,701.05 prescribed by Barnett.

Former bookkeeper Jill Watkins, who owed $61,327.34, appears to have taken her accrued state retirement in a lump sum and on Aug. 20 and put the resulting $45,846.84 toward her balance. She still owes $15,480.50.

The totals for each of the three was significantly less than the original $1.353 million for which then-state auditor Stacy Pickering issued a demand on June 26, 2016.

“These individuals took advantage of the taxpayers of Neshoba County and created a scheme to defraud the local taxpayers of over $1 million,” Pickering said at the time. “The State Auditor’s Office will work to recover the funds through restitution and their bond to make Neshoba County whole as quickly as possible.”

Gomillion, Russell and Watkins were terminated after a nearly four-hour executive session by the Neshoba County Board of Supervisors and Board Attorney Wade White on Oct. 24, 2014.

Supervisors and White at that time said they knew nothing about the scandal uncovered when a deputy sheriff was mistakingly given a copy of a pay stub belonging one of the women.

The lawyer who represented all three of the women, Bill Ready Jr. of Meridian, could not be reached for comment.

Former County Administrator Benjie Coats pleaded guilty to one count of fraud in public office in the case.

Coats pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 10 years in prison. The sentence was suspended and he was ordered to serve one year under house arrest.

As part of the plea, Coats agreed to provide truthful testimony in the cases of the three others indicted in the overtime scandal.

Coats was also ordered to make $100,000 in restitution to the county. He was also fined $5,000. Coats has been making monthly payments, his attorney said.

The seven indictments against the women charged that they submitted “fraudulent overtime statements” from January 2008 to October 2014 and received payment for overtime that was not worked by virtue of their positions as county employees.

The three former employees’ salaries during fiscal year 2014 ranged from $98,686 to $105,607, which included over $65,000 in overtime pay each, the payroll records obtained by the Democrat at that time showed.

Records showed their salaries for the two previous fiscal years were slightly less. During fiscal 2011, the salaries ranged from $77,101 to $85,742.

County payroll records showed that Russell was paid $105,607.57 during fiscal year 2014. Of that, $36,480.08 was base pay and $69,127.49 in overtime pay.

The records show that Watkins earned $99,935.42 during fiscal 2014, $34,280.22 in base pay and $65,655.20 in overtime pay.

Gomillion earned $98,686.93 during fiscal 2014, the records showed. Of that, $33,080.32 was in base pay and $65,606.61 in overtime pay.

During fiscal year 2014, payroll records reflect that Russell worked an average 90.28 hours a week; Watkins, 90.82 hours; and Gomillion 92.63 hours.