Clerk Wanda Halbert in Jamaica while office remains closed, says Comptroller

Published: Aug. 22, 2022 at 1:58 PM CDT|Updated: Aug. 23, 2022 at 10:17 AM CDT
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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - Tennessee Comptroller’s office has confirmed that Shelby County Clerk Wanda Halbert is out of the country in Jamaica.

This comes as the Shelby County Clerk’s Office has closed its offices this week to “catch up” on a backlog of work.

Comptroller Jason Mumpower wrote in the announcement on Twitter that “the clerk’s trip shows a lack of leadership and concern for her staff who are left to address the backlog without her presence in the office.”

The announcement further said Halbert’s decision “shows a lack of respect for the citizens of Shelby County who are forgoing many of the clerk’s services this week in hopes that she is addressing her office’s deficiencies during the closure.”

“The clerk’s decision to travel to Jamaica this week shows that her apologies were meaningless,” said Mumpower. “Her decision to take a trip damages her credibility and shows a complete lack of awareness. The clerk is AWOL while her staff is left behind trying to clean up the mess.”

The Tennessee Comptroller’s office says they were hearing rumors over the weekend that Shelby County Clerk Wanda Halbert may be out of the country on vacation.

Director of Communications John Dunn says they confirmed on Monday that Halbert was in the Caribbean.

“We believe she should not have taken a trip out of the country at a time where she was also telling the people of Shelby County that her office was catching up on the backlog, said Dunn. “Instead, she’s not in the office, and her staff is presumably there working on the situation, but their leader is in another country.”

Halbert has previously said that her partner lives in Jamaica.

In a statement, Shelby County Mayor Lee Harris said:

“We share the public’s disappointment that Clerk Halbert has chosen to close public offices that serve our residents and leave the country. Our administration has consistently asked that Clerk Halbert expand her hours of operation in order to clear backlog issues and deliver essential services to Shelby County residents. We all need Clerk Halbert to do the job that she was elected to do.”

Tennessee State Representative John Gillespie reacted to the comptroller’s statement on Twitter:

Shelby County Commissioner Mark Billingsley also expressed his disapproval and called for Halbert’s removal.

“If ‘all-hands-on-deck’ is going out of the country, then it’s really disappointing,” Billingsley said. “Our constituents deserve better. At what point is enough enough? We have to look into some recall measures to remove Clerk Halbert.”

Commissioner Mick Wright also says he shares frustrations citizens have with the clerk’s office.

" We are really fed up with the situation,” Wright said. “We know the citizens are. Those drivers with expired tags are fed up. The absence of leader ship in the county clerks offices is really remarkably bad. And so yes we’re going to take whatever steps we can take.”

Commissioners Tami Sawyer and Mick Wright also shared their reactions on Twitter:

Shelby County residents aren’t mincing their words, either.

“This is the second time driving all the way out here on my one day off,” said Whitehaven resident Precious Jones. “I’m pissed. You got the vote, so where’s the people at? Where’s the support? Come on now.”

“I try to do my best to abide by the laws,” said clerk’s office customer Paris Birchfield. “Unfortunately, I have two vehicles I have to get registered. I just hope I don’t have any issues in the near future.”

Action News 5 has reached out to Halbert for comment.

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