James Birge

Published 12:00 am Friday, July 15, 2011

Supervisor who gave up truck says holding onto miles

By Billy Davis

After accumulating 42,000 miles in a county-owned truck that he surrendered in April, District 1 Supervisor James Birge has yet to turn in three months of mileage documentation for reimbursements from Panola County.

“I haven’t turned any (mileage) in but I am keeping up with it,” Birge told The Panolian this week, when a legal notice for June claims was set to be published in The Panolian.

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Birge said he intends to turn in mileage, for the previous three months, “in the next week or two.”

The District 1 supervisor is seeking re-election to a second term in the August 2 Democratic primary, now less than three weeks away, where he has drawn two Democratic opponents.

Panola County government writes checks to county supervisors each month after they turn in mileage showing they used a private automobile for county business. The expenditures are published as a public notice in the newspaper.

Four other Panola supervisors were paid for June travel in private automobiles, a total figure of $1,337 (which included a supervisors convention in Biloxi), and Birge, too, is entitled to a reimbursement check.

There is no Mississippi law that forbids Birge and other county supervisors from allowing their monthly mileage to accumulate, said Chancery Clerk Jim Pitcock, whose office oversees county payroll.  

Pitcock, now in office for 7 1/2 years, said he has yet to see anyone turn in several months of mileage.

“There are occasions where somebody forgot to report a month and they put it on the next month,” said Pitcock. “But more than two months — I’d say that’s unusual.”

The Panolian reported in February that Birge’s county-owned GMC pickup had accumulated 42,330 miles during the 2009-2010 fiscal year. Those miles surpassed anybody in Panola County government, with an assistant road manager showing the second-closest tally with 26,099 miles.

Birge denied allegations that he used the county truck for personal use for his plumbing business, though plumbing supplies were in the bed of the pickup.

In April, Panola County road manager Lygunnah Bean reported in a board meeting that Birge was giving the county-owned truck to the road department.