Thousands of Tennessee license plates headed to Shelby County mailboxes

Published: Jun. 29, 2022 at 5:36 PM CDT

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - For those waiting months for their new Tennessee license plate, the Shelby County Clerk’s Office has stated the process to ship more than 8,000 plates that have been packaged and waiting for delivery to the Shelby County mailroom.

Now the debate still continues as to what caused the backlog to begin with.

A search for answers has been leading many Shelby County Clerk customers to long lines, now a common scene outside county clerk office branches.

“They shouldn’t be out here in the heat. I know there’s something better to be done,” Shelby County Clerk Office customer Evelyn Smith said.

“I had heard the lines were long so I kind of prepared for this,” customer Paula Jay said. “I think so many of us have to get the new blue Tennessee tag and that’s what’s jamming up the system.”

Paula Jay, who waited in a long line to order her new license plate at the Shelby County Clerk’s Office, is right on the money. However, a dispute over money may be one of the reasons a backlog of unshipped license plates have caused Shelby County drivers waiting months for their new tags.

“I’ve heard from people who have done the online services; it’s taken a long time to get their tags and they’re riding around waiting for their tags so I’m down there trying to get them,” Smith said.

Clerk office customers have reported waiting months to get their new vehicle tag, and for months it’s been a back and forth between Clerk Wanda Halbert and Shelby County Government on who to blame.

“I’m sick and tired of the commission and the Mayor being the scapegoats for this,” Shelby County Commissioner Mark Billingsley said. “None of us will say it but the reality is it’s a gross gross dereliction of duties by this clerk.”

“Sir I cannot be in the middle of the Mayor’s mailroom who decides to tell us they’re not going to deliver anymore mail until they get more money. I don’t pay the mayor’s mailroom,” Halbert said back.

Billingsley said if more delays are seen, the state may have to step in. Halbert told him his comments made her feel more disrespected than she’s ever felt in her 20 years of public service.

This week Shelby County Administration said more than $540,000 was put on the USPS postage meter at Shelby County Support Services to pay for the shipment of thousands of license plates. Halbert said more than 8,000 are starting to be shipped this week.

Halbert has accused Mayor Lee Harris’ administration and the Commission of a lack of direction about mailing the plates. The Clerk’s Office packages the plates, but the county Support Services sends them out.

In May, Harris and commissioners wrote to Halbert saying her office will have to take over mailing their shipments on July first. But last week another letter from the administration said mail services can continue to ship the office’s mail if Halbert agrees to delivering ready to mail parcels to mail services within 24 hours, have weekly visual inspections of offices and quarterly reviews.

It appears Halbert will consent to that agreement as she said the office still needs to get appropriate equipment to take over mailings.

As for many drivers who are forced to drive vehicles with expired tags, the Memphis Police Department said: “When tags are applied for online vehicle owners are provided with a receipt. This should be printed to be kept in the vehicle or saved as a photo on their phone. This would provide proof of registration that can be presented to an officer when a vehicle stop has occurred.”

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