A week’s recap going into Shelby County Clerk’s Office opening Monday

A week’s recap going into Shelby County Clerk’s Office opening Monday
Published: Aug. 28, 2022 at 10:19 PM CDT|Updated: Aug. 29, 2022 at 4:59 AM CDT
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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - For the last week, the doors at the Shelby County Clerk’s Office have been closed to the public.

This move was to address the backlog of things like car tag and business license applications, among other things.

With those doors expected to open Monday morning, there’s been no word from Clerk Wanda Halbert or the Clerk’s Office on how extensive the backlog was and how much of it has been resolved.

Many may remember the biggest headline kicked off the last week when the Tennessee Comptroller’s Office confirmed that Halbert was vacationing in Jamaica while her staff worked on the backlog.

“That’s appalling,” said Kent Ritchey on Thursday. “She said ‘All hands on deck,’ and then she left town.”

The backlog initially said to be resolved in late July was anything but in mid-August, creating rising frustration with Memphis auto dealers like Ritchey, president of the Great Memphis Auto Dealers Association.

“The largest dealer has over 500 tag applications sitting there. Some of them go back to May. The largest dealer group has over 1,100 customer tags - these are citizens of Shelby County - just sitting there. The second largest group had 953,” Ritchey listed.

The backlog has affected everyday residents for months now.

“Whatever Ms. Wanda is doing, I hope she makes it back fast and hurries up because we’re getting tickets out here, and (law enforcement is) not hearing that it’s closed,” said Robin Burnett, a Shelby County resident who was outside the main downtown office last week.

Business licenses have been held up as well.

“Time is money, and when it takes more time to do something, it’s more money that is lost,” said Bobby White, Chief Public Policy Officer for Memphis Chamber.

As an alternative to a no-confidence vote, Shelby County Commission requested help from the state less than a month ago, the state replying that no state statute justifies an intervention from Nashville.

“It is a local issue that the work there is managed by the Clerk’s Office, but we’ve made an effort to work alongside that office,” said Governor Bill Lee.

The newly elected county commission takes office this week.

Commissioner-elect Britney Thornton says bringing Halbert before their body for answers isn’t off the table.

To figure out what exactly is the issue to address, not really wanting...I think the collaborative energy of my colleagues and me is not really wanting to attack the person but really just to attack the issue,” Thornton said.

Shelby County Mayor Lee Harris’s Office says the county is considering hiring temp workers to come in and with a reported staff shortage.

All this has happened while we’ve made multiple attempts to reach Halbert and the clerk’s office. We’ve not heard back.

Another week of closure is scheduled in three weeks, but the hope is, for now, some answers will soon be given to county residents on the state of the backlog.

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