Help on the way for Shelby County Clerk Wanda Halbert
MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - The future of the five Shelby County Clerk’s Office locations is up in the air.
Between expired leases, empty buildings and staff not yet hired, Shelby County Clerk Wanda Halbert has a lot of work to do. Luckily, help is on the way.
More than a few cars in Shelby County are driving around with expired tags. The dread of standing in long lines at the clerk’s office is greater than the fear of getting a ticket for some Memphians. Shelby County Commissioners said they’ve heard numerous constituent complaints.
They asked Clerk Wanda Halbert during a committee meeting on Wednesday, March 29, what is taking so long to fix what ails her department.
One commissioner even asked her to step down.
“Is it not time to step aside in the interest of our constituents and the turmoil that we’ve put them through?” asked Commissioner Mick Wright.
“Absolutely not,” Clerk Halbert replied, “I’m not going anywhere.”
The embattled clerk rejected Commissioner Wright’s call to resign.
The focus now is to make sure no more county clerk branches close.
“Poplar and Highland will stay open. It will move,” Halbert told the commission.
She said the Poplar Plaza office will move into a new spot in the shopping center by the Kroger.
The current lease expires in 90 days.
No new lease has been signed yet, and Halbert gave no timeline for getting the new spot operational.
She also proposed opening an additional location in the old Regions Bank on Quince at Perkins but gave no timeline for renovating that building or hiring employees.
”What date should we expect Riverdale to open?” asked Commissioner Shante Avant, “because if we are closing another facility and you have yet to open the Riverdale facility, we have an additional compression issue.”
Clerk Halbert couldn’t provide an opening date for the Riverdale branch in Southeast Memphis.
It was supposed to go online after the Germantown branch of the Shelby County Clerk’s Office closed due to eviction in 2020.
”We’re upset because of long lines? We’ve always had long lines,” Halbert told commissioners. “They just weren’t as long as they are today because you were allowed to stand cheek to cheek, shoulder to shoulder. We can’t do that. COVID is not gone.”
Halbert said some delays are because the satellite offices don’t meet ADA regulations or fire code.
But Shelby County Public Works Director Cliff Norvell said all locations are in compliance.
Halbert also said she wasn’t allowed to hire staff for Riverdale until other locations were fully staffed. Shelby County Human Resources Director Gerald Thornton says that is not the case.
“HR has never told anyone that they cannot hire anyone,” Thornton told the commissioners.
And the commission learned that the lease on the Whitehaven clerk’s office has already expired, the county now going month to month on the space.
Halbert, who served the community as a Memphis City School Board member and as a Memphis City councilwoman, and has logged five years now as the Shelby County Clerk, promised collaboration to address the problems.
“Whatever we need to do to work with this administration, this county commission, we’re willing to do that,” she said.
The Shelby County Commission also found out the county spent $53,000 on an audit of the Shelby County Clerk’s Office. Yet the commission has not seen the results of that audit.
So, what’s next for the Clerk’s Office?
Commission Chairman Mickell Lowery said he’ll announce this Thursday the special advisor who’s going to help Clerk Halbert.
The Shelby County Commission voted in February to hire someone to assist Halbert and provide a progress report to the commission within 90 days.
The position comes with a six-figure salary.
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