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Judge Dismisses Removal Petition Against Shelby County Clerk Wanda Halbert

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A petition to remove Shelby County Clerk Wanda Halbert from office was dismissed in a Shelby County courtroom on Tuesday, June 18, following a motion from the embattled official’s attorney.

Shelby County Circuit Court Judge Felicia Cordin-Johnson agreed to dismiss the case filed by Hamilton County District Attorney Coty Wamp. The motion cited a lack of authority on her behalf.

“The criminal court, what they decided to do is, they issued an order authorizing the Hamilton County D.A.’s office to do this removal action. There is no provision in the statute that allows that. That was the basis for our motion to dismiss this matter,” said Darrell O’Neal, Halbert’s attorney.

He also noted that the removal statute “specifically says” who can initiate the action. In addition to the local district attorney, the short list includes a handful of county officials, or citizens.

“It has to be the local D.A. It has to be…the state attorney general’s office can do it, or the county attorney, the city attorney, or 10 individual citizens can come together and do it,” elaborated O’Neal.

Halbert had no comment, following the ruling. O’Neal said his client would address questions at a later date.

“Shelby County is stuck with her now until and unless somebody else..refiles this petition. If they refile it, they have options we did not,” said Wamp.

Those include filing the case in criminal court, or trying their luck again in circuit court. The case could also be filed with the chancery court.

“If something happens, we’ll have to deal with them as they happen.” responded O’Neal.
There were other issues with the ouster attempt. The Shelby County Administration held Wamp’s role as a facilitator, who would refer the ouster to a district attorney general. From there, a decision to proceed would be made.

Wamp was appointed as a special prosecutor in June of 2023 by Shelby County Criminal Court Division 8 Judge Chris Craft, after Shelby County District Attorny Steve Mulroy’s recusal. The political nature of the case was noted.

However, the reluctant Shelby County D.A. could also change his mind and refile. Shelby County Attorney Marlinee Iverson also has the option.

Following the ruling, a spokesperson for Mulroy said the D.A. would meet with Iverson and provide information on the matter.

According to Wamp, her Shelby County counterpart has a good shot at succeeding, with Halbert’s vital role with the county. To boot, most of the planned witnesses are county employees. She has also spoken to Tennessee Attorney General Jonathan Skrmetti, who hasn’t signaled a decision.

Furthermore, Halbert’s woes will likely continue with the Shelby County Commission – where many of her problems began.

Commissioners grew concerned with the inner workings of her office during the COVID pandemic, when a backlog of thousands of license plates, vehicle tags and other state issuances occurred.

Ire continued to grow after a cascading series of miscues followed – including an impromptu vacation to Jamaica, office closures with no replacement spaces, and erroneous monthly financial statements to the Shelby County Comptroller.

The latter spurred an audit order from State Comptroller Jason Mumpower. Wamp’s petition echoed many of the criticisms found in the audit.

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