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Tuesday, March 5, 2024

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Commission embraces resolution to help operation of Shelby County Clerk’s office

With lines outside Shelby County Clerk offices still lingering, Shelby County commissioners unanimously adopted a resolution detailing recommendations to help Clerk Wanda Halbert address a series of shortfalls in staffing and technology.

The set of benchmarks approved Monday (Oct. 17) are the latest effort to ease a backlog in the issuance of license plates, vehicle tags and handicap placards, among other items, which began in April.

Shelby County Clerk Wanda Halbert.

The move also comes as the office of Shelby County Clerk Wanda prepares to open another satellite office by the end of the month.

Throughout the months-long saga, staffing was a persistent factor. During her update, Halbert blamed much of the shortfalls on bureaucratic hurdles of the county’s Human Resources Department, which is responsible for staffing the office. 

“That term usually takes about 60-90 days,” Halbert claimed.

However, like many of the claims Halbert has made since the morass began, a county employee was quick to dispute.

“It does not take 60 to 90 days to hire anyone. It’s 15 days. It’s never been 60 to 90 days to hire anyone,” countered Shelby County Human Resources Director Gerald Thornton.

The pair couldn’t agree on the number of staff, either. Halbert said there were 80 currently working in the clerk’s office. 

Thornton countered there were only 68. He also said there were more than 1,000 applications that have been submitted. The only in-writing request seeking a hire came Monday, however.

“As of last week, Clerk Halbert had 1,750 pending applications for one job in her office, but they have not done anything about it,” Thornton said.

On top of HR, the county clerk also blamed shortages on non-competitive wages, which results in a revolving door. This not only includes private industry jobs, but counterparts in similar sized and smaller counties.

“I can’t even tell you the sunken feeling I had when we finally got a chance to hire two very good, well-qualified finance employees. Literally, these salaries, they’re walking away,” said Halbert.

“They came in with little more than 33 to 35 thousand dollars and they’re leaving us just as quick as we can get them in. One, we are having them wait too long. Others are offering far more salaries than we are, so we’re working with them on that as well.”

Yet, with an ongoing problem months in the making, some new commission members were only seeking bottom line solutions.

“You’ve got to get fully staffed … That’s not their responsibility, that is your responsibility,” leveled Commissioner Shante Avant, one of six new members on the commission.

In addition to hiring the necessary personnel, the resolution also asks for a job study to establish what type of staffing is needed.

 During the meeting, Halbert said the skillset required for clerk positions, for example, can vary.

The resolution also commands commission staff to “assist” Halbert’s office by “gathering necessary documents, including but not limited to job studies and budget requests from the County Clerk.”

“We need to support you so that we are able to get people their tags … Let’s just get our folks what they need,” said Avant. “If that means reclassifying some positions, let’s get it done.”

Halbert accused the county administration’s hiring committee of hindering the hiring process.

“There’s something called the ‘Hiring Committee,’ last term. That hiring committee was like a second veto for the administration, not for those elected to get us what is needed in manpower – you know what I’m talking about,” said Edmund Ford Jr., who has been a frequent critic of the county Mayor Lee Harris’ administration.

The resolution calls for the new Riverdale location to open by Oct. 31. It replaces the heavily trafficked Germantown location, which recently closed. At least 13 staff members are needed for that office to open.

Harris recently addressed a letter to Halbert, saying the new office might not open at the end of the month due to a lack of cooperation with the administration’s IT office. Halbert refuted the charge. 

As well as staffing issues, the resolution also called for all clerk’s offices to be fully automated and that all facilities be brought up to state and local codes.


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