CHARLESTON -- The Mississippi County prosecutor will get his grand jury.
During the regular County Commission meeting Thursday, county officials distributed to the press copies of an order from Special Judge Paul McGhee which calls for a grand jury to be convened "to investigate and return indictments for crimes including an investigation of the Mississippi County Sheriff's Department and Detention Center."
The investigation of the Sheriff's Department and Detention Center is related to missing property and funds. The missing funds were discovered during the 2002-2003 audit. Based on the auditor's report, the county treasurer estimated at least $33,998 was missing. County officials believe additional money was also missing but inadequate financial records at the jail make determining that amount impossible.
Darren Cann, Mississippi County prosecuting attorney, said he is happy the order to call a grand jury was finally handed down.
He said the grand jury will help him process 40 to 70 drug cases, at least two homicides, "and a rash of shootings we've had in recent weeks."
A grand jury can streamline the judicial process by determining whether there is probable cause, enabling the prosecution to skip the preliminary hearing.
With no preliminary hearing, confidential informant identities and information about covert surveillance operations aren't publicly revealed as soon making grand juries particularly useful in drug cases.
In September, county commissioners approved $5,000 to cover grand jury expenses after Cann requested a grand jury to investigate approximately 60 drug cases and two murders.
In January, Circuit Court Judge David A. Dolan removed himself as judge for the consideration of convening a grand jury in Mississippi Count.
In related news, Pam Glastetter, circuit clerk of Scott County, was appointed as acting circuit clerk for the limited purpose of selecting grand jurors and other duties that may arise in connection with the grand jury. Mississippi County's circuit clerk, Karen S. Turley, voluntarily disqualified herself.
Turley is married to Larry Turley who was the sheriff during the period of time property and funds came up missing at the jail and sheriff's department.
In other business Thursday:
* The county coroner's office budget is once again pinched by autopsy bills.
Autopsy bills are up due to "the rise of violent deaths in our county," according to Coroner Terry Parker .
There have been five killings this year, Presiding Commissioner Jim Blumenberg said: three in Charleston and two in East Prairie.
Blumenberg said the coroner doesn't really have any control over these costs. "It has to be done," he said. "He's just doing what the state says."
The autopsies are "required by statute," agreed Commissioner Homer Oliver.
The county budgeted $12,500 for autopsies this year, according to Blumenberg.
"And that's more than we've ever budgeted before," noted County Clerk Junior DeLay.
* County officials are looking for a new jail administrator.
Bob Whitehead gave his notice April 27, according to commissioners.
Whitehead advised count officials he will work another three or four weeks but has accepted a job in food service, an industry he had previously worked in.
* Commissioners accepted the low bid of $8,995 for a single audit from Brown and Thomas CPAs of Jackson.
Also bidding were Schott and Plassman of Cape Girardeau which offered to do the audit for $18,250 and Beussink, Hey, Roe, Seabaugh and Stroder of Cape Girardeau which bid the job at $11,500.
Brown and Thomas is the company that conducted the county's audit last year, according to DeLay.
* Residents on County Road 429 requested the county not grade their road so often.
Blumenberg said the snowstone packs down and makes a nice road but then graders come and pull large rocks to the surface when the roads don't even need to be graded yet.
* Blumenberg said he and Richard Wallace, county road and bridge superintendent, visited Anniston to check on their drainage problem.
"It's really not that big a situation, really," he said.
Blumenberg said Wallace has a plan to mop out about 150 foot of the ditch there, use a grader on another section, and install a pipe.
"He said he thinks it will do a good job," Blumenberg said.
* Oliver proposed replacing an old clay tile culvert on County Road 307 located under a concrete road that was formerly State Highway 60/62
"Everybody calls it a 'slab road,'" Oliver said.
The culvert has apparently shifted, according to Oliver, and has some blockage affecting drainage.
* A public hearing for Charleston's Enhanced Enterprise Zone designation application is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. Tuesday at City Hall.
Topics will include boundaries for the zone as well as targeted industries, the percent of abatement on taxes, and the duration of tax abatements, according to DeLay.
* County officials are still looking for someone to fill a vacancy on the Public Facilities Board.