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With petition for her ouster looming, County Clerk Wanda Halbert breaks silence on social media

Following the motion to remove Shelby County Clerk Wanda Halbert from office, a pair of resolutions totaling $2.4 million to provide pay raises and equipment upgrades to the beleaguered department were pulled during the commission meeting on Monday, May 6.

Hamilton County District Attorney Coty Wamp made the removal request in Circuit Court earlier in the day. In addition to noting a “willful neglect to perform a duty,” it also cites the recent filing of inaccurate reports in February.

On Tuesday, Halbert took to Facebook to respond:

“The Office of the Shelby County Clerk over the last 5+ years has repeatedly “sounded the alarm” regarding a host of findings/concerns (financial included). Said concerns have been documented and reported to multiple legal County & State entities but never investigated. Fortunately, the day has come that FINALLY begins direct attention to the matters we have raised. While our team cannot discuss these and other matters, we will not be afraid to do what the law requires of us. When given authority, we commit to being transparent and will report accordingly,” Halbert responded via Facebook.

Wamp was appointed independent prosecutor by Shelby County Criminal Court Division 8 Judge Chris Craft in June. He has been investigating whether Halbert’s removal from office is warranted.

“Ms. Halbert consistently fails to turn the monthly report in to the Trustee in a timely manner … Ms. Halbert’s reports are consistently inaccurate with collected dollar amounts not added properly,” Wamp stated in the petition.

The reports are part of a set of recommendations for a corrective action plan mandated by Tennessee State Comptroller Jason Mumpower.  

A team of auditors was sent to review Halbert’s operation in March, after Shelby County Trustee Regina Newman pulled erroneous financial reports. Some have been resubmitted.

As recently as this week, lines at County Clerk offices are stretching down the hallway, out of the building and around the corner. (Photo: Brian Ramoly/Tri-State Defender)

A corrective action plan that addresses the state-mandated set of recommendations also hasn’t materialized. However, financial reporting from the office has reportedly picked up steam.

Meanwhile, sponsor Erika Sugarmon pulled the funding resolutions as the items were being read. The commissioner has been one of the few consistent supporters of Halbert, who has blamed her office’s woes on outdated equipment and short staffing. They were withdrawn without comment.

During a recent committee meeting, Shelby County Human Resources Director Gerald Thorton opposed the funding request. He argued that the six percent raise for county employees in Mayor Lee Harris’ proposed FY2025 budget offered a better deal. 

Accurate reports are needed to gauge the amount of tax revenue the office is generating. This includes a recent $25 wheel tax increase the commission passed in June. It will be used to shore up funding for the new Regional One Hospital campus, along with two new high schools in Cordova and Frayser. The latter have also experienced cost overruns.

Members Edmund Ford, Jr. and Britney Thornton have pointed to other divisions’ state audits. None have been singled out for increasing scrutiny and possible removal of leadership. 

Commission ire with Halbert dates back to the pandemic, after a months-long backlog of thousands of vehicle tags and other issuances occurred during her first term. After being reelected in 2022, she first attracted Mumpower’s attention with an impromptu vacation to Jamaica while her office was digging out of its hole. 

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