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County Commission Audit Committee wants Halbert to present plan for corrective action

Members of the Shelby County Commission Audit Committee passed a resolution pressing the Shelby County Clerk’s office to provide a corrective action plan addressing recommendations from the Tennessee State Comptroller’s office during its Wednesday, April 17 meeting.

The item also calls on County Clerk Wanda Halbert to explain why her department hasn’t adhered to the directives – including submitting financial reports for March and April. The reports are due on the 10th of every month.

“We’re going to be in the same situation we’ve been in for the last many months, of flying blind and not knowing what our revenues are. So it really is incumbent upon this body to ensure that these recommendations are being followed up on. That’s what we’re requesting from the clerk,” said Commissioner Mick Wright (Dist. 3).

Halbert did not appear at the meeting.

Tennessee State Comptroller Jason Mumpower sent a team of auditors to Memphis in early March, after Shelby County Trustee Regina Newman pulled inaccurate revenue reports submitted by the clerk’s office.

The list of recommendations from the state followed.

It was the second audit of the department. The county previously cracked the department’s books at the request of the commission. The state comptroller’s office concurred with its assessment.

“She is now on notice that errors have been found, or that a corrective action must occur. She must adhere to that,” said Shelby County Director of Budget and Finance Audrey Tipton. “I can say we are receiving her reports right now. We want to continue to monitor that and review what she has to ensure that it’s correct.”

Issues with Halbert’s management of the clerk’s office date back to the height of the pandemic, when a months-long backlog of vehicle tags and other county issued permits occurred. Numerous difficulties have beset the office since.

The news that Halbert is issuing reports gave one member pause. There were also concerns the commission was overstepping its bounds. Like the sheriff’s department, the clerk’s office is imbued with a degree of autonomy.

“We will learn at the next budget season review in proper timing, whether or not the corrective action plan was honored,” said Commissioner Britney Thornton (Dist. 10). “That is required by the auditors…There are no additional processes we have to address. Those were already addressed in process.”

She also pointed to shortfalls in staffing that has plagued the clerk’s office during Halbert’s tenure. However, those needs were not brought up the county’s ladder. 

“Clerk Halbert has not made a request. This is the third year in a row that she’s made that representation, but has not made a request of HR to have such compensation studied,” said Gerald Thornton, Shelby County Director of Human Resources.

“She will call every now and then through her representative and say they think they have extra money,” he continued. “After we explain to them the processes, there has not been a follow up from the clerk’s office since I’ve been here.”

It is Director Thornton’s third year with the department.

The calls for patience also failed to resonate with members. The county requires monthly reports so it can track and estimate revenues. The fact that Shelby County Mayor Lee Harris is currently prepping a budget for submission to the commission underscores their necessity.

The resolution passed 5-2. Voting in favor  were Charlie Caswell, Amber Mills, Mark Whaley, David Bradford and Wright. 

Members Erika Sugarmon and Thornton voted no, while Edmund Ford, Jr. abstained.

The item moves to the full commission with a favorable recommendation. A second reading is expected during the upcoming Monday, April 22 meeting.

Wright amended the resolution to request the reports for March and April. The original item called for reports for February and March.

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