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Shelby County Clerk to curb office access in a catch-up move

Embattled Shelby County Clerk Wanda Halbert announced closures for two separate weeks to catch up on the backlog of additional work the office is facing.

In a press release, Halbert said it was “all hands on deck” to catch up on critically outstanding services, most urgently auto dealer packets.

Halbert notified Shelby County commissioners by letter of plans to close the clerk’s office on Aug. 22-26 and Sept. 19-23.

The message also said customers could purchase tags online, renew by mail, or visit the office when it reopens. The decision is a result of long lines following the recent delays.

Last week, commissioners voted 7-2-4 to ask the State Comptroller’s Office to begin directing the mailing of backlogged car tags and license plates. The resolution replaced a deferred no-confidence vote.

Due to the morass, anger had been brewing on the commission – and throughout the county – for months. The accumulation of unmailed plates, tags, and handicap placards began in May. Halbert blamed the muddle on a lack of funding. 

Workforce issues have also been a problem. There are as many as 30 openings, with 1,000 applications under review. Last fiscal year, the office underspent on personnel by $866,048.

In late June, the former Memphis City Council member guaranteed an accumulated 8,666 backlogged tags were set to be mailed. 

To cover delivery, commissioners agreed to $540,000 in funding with stipulations. By July 28, Halbert said the office had caught up.

According to the Aug. 8 resolution, 35,000 customers were affected during the holdup.

Despite the backlog drama and inconvenience, voters opted to stick with the incumbent. On Aug. 4, the Democrat netted 49 percent of the vote to win re-election. Her new term begins Sept.1

Halbert, all along, maintained she was being made a “scapegoat” for practices that “bump up against the law,” including vanishing records. 

An audit conducted by Shelby County CAO Harold Collins found no evidence of wrongdoing. Commissioners and Shelby County Mayor Lee Harris are also skeptical of the claims.

In July, Halbert announced she was seeking federal whistleblower status so the accusations can be investigated without fear of reprisal.

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