‘We’re back to normal’: Shelby County clerk says license plate backlog cleared

Published: Jul. 28, 2022 at 11:05 PM CDT|Updated: Jul. 29, 2022 at 4:57 AM CDT
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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - Shelby County Clerk Wanda Halbert says her office is caught up on the backlog of license plates.

Now, her office is focused on work that’s been pushed aside because of the delay.

“I can officially go on the record to say that, we’re back to normal,” said Shelby County Clerk Wanda Halbert.

Hopefully, it will provide relief for Shelby County drivers who have been waiting for license plates.

But the question remains, why were thousands of plates backlogged, to begin with?

“The only reason we’re here is because the citizens and the customers of Shelby County, " said Halbert.” “We failed them as a county. I don’t care who did it -- why they did it. We failed them.”

Halbert says her office is not to blame.

Halbert provided Action News 5 with a copy of an e-mail exchange between a Shelby County Mail Services employee and a staff member from her office.

The first e-mail sent on March 18 by the mail services employee suggests adding prepaid postage when mailing out license plates and tags. They also said they wanted to address concerns that the mail room had not received any mail from the clerk’s office that day, adding it would delay processing.

The next e-mail sent on May 31 from a mail services employee says they had not received any license plate tags since May 19, “due to lack of funds to process.” It goes on to say, “Hopefully that this will be soon resolved, so that we may assist you to reduce or clear any backlog you may have.”

Halbert says Shelby County Government said they couldn’t mail out the plates due to a lack of funds from the clerk’s office.

In June, Shelby County Commission 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.

Thursday, Halbert questioned where the money had gone from customers who pre-paid $5.00 for postage for their plates.

“I’m not suggesting at all that you’re mishandling funds,” said Halbert. “I’m telling you these funds are somewhere, but they’re not in this office, but the service was stopped. I can’t explain what someone else did.”

Halbert added she had not seen a report on how much money she believes is missing.

Now, she says her office is focused on catching up on the thousands of auto-dealer tag applications and other tasks.

“I know what I do. I can’t answer to what someone else does or does not do,” said Halbert. “And I will never be placed in that position again. Ever.”

Halbert also renewed financial concerns and conditions inside area clerk offices.

She says her office had to seek its own audit in September 2018, and conditions at offices need to be improved along with better pay for employees.

Halbert says her office was not given an audit when she first took office.

In 2021, the Tennessee Comptroller’s Office notified Halbert they reviewed complaints and allegations of handling of funds by the clerk’s Office.

Comptroller Jason Mumpower added the issues were discussed with the Shelby County Trustee, Director of Administration and Finance, the County Attorney and Shelby County’s external and internal auditor, saying, “We believe there is no evidence of fraud, waste and abuse.”

Halbert says the office does not yet have its own mailing system separate from the county’s system.

The Clerk’s office was supposed to separate from the county mailing system on July 1, but Halbert says the office wanted to focus on getting backlogged plates out.

Instead, Halbert says employees have been taking stamped, packaged plates to post offices and following county mail services vehicles to area post offices to ensure plates are being mailed out.

If you paid for a plate before mid-July and have not received it yet, send an e-mail to motorvehicle@shelbycountytn.gov.

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