MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Shelby County Clerk Wanda Halbert remained defiant in the face of a call to resign her office during a contentious back-and-forth with county commissioners Wednesday.

In a more than hour-long meeting, Halbert was questioned about plans for her Poplar Plaza office, which has been under a microscope from Shelby County Mayor Lee Harris to renew the lease set to expire June 30.

Halbert says her team plans to stay in Poplar Plaza but move to another nearby bay of the shopping center. The new space would be slightly larger, around 900 square feet, meaning she could allow nine customers inside the building at a time, versus seven in the current spot.

She also hopes to purchase a former bank at Quince and Perkins for “a little less than $900,000″ for an additional clerk’s office.

“What more befitting to have both facilities because Poplar and Highland is going to be a temporary facility until we can figure out how to serve that customer base,” Halbert said.

When a commissioner asked for a date when the new Poplar Plaza space would be open, Halbert could not provide one, saying the negotiations were a work in progress.

Halbert told commissioners she knew the satellite office leases were expiring when she took office in 2018, and claimed the current sites were “illegal.”

That prompted Commissioner Mick Wright to ask Halbert why she hasn’t yet moved on leasing new sites if she knew for years that it was a need.

“How is it possible that we’re at this point after five years of your leadership? How long is it going to take to get these offices open?” Wright asked.

Wright said his constituents are concerned about the clerk’s situation and are asking him to take action.

“I hold nothing against you personally, but is it not time to step aside?” Wright asked Halbert. 

Halbert replied, “To answer your question, sir, absolutely not. I’m not going anywhere.”

The exchange turned tense when Wright asked Halbert what her work schedule looked like next week. Halbert shot back.

“Sir, are you trying to figure out my wedding plans? I will never, very respectfully sir, talk to you about my personal business, my personal life,” she responded.

“It was about your work schedule,” Wright said.

The possible closure of the Poplar Plaza location after negotiations with the property manager that have drug on since last September have sent some county leaders to the boiling point.

In 2020, the Germantown location of the clerk’s office closed when the office failed to secure another lease. A new Riverdale location was supposed to open last year, and a Whitehaven location is in a month-to-month lease.

“Under my watch, we’re not gonna see another location of this clerk’s operation close down, and we’re gonna move heaven and earth to make sure that doesn’t happen,” county Mayor Lee Harris said in an interview with WREG earlier Wednesday.

“It’s time to put a stake through the heart of this vampire situation,” Harris said.

Halbert complained to commissioners Wednesday about the state of her current facilities, which were 25 to 30 years old, and said her office isn’t getting the resources it needs from the county. She even gave her office a self-assessment.

“I give this operation an absolute negative, because I am a customer myself, and I am appalled,” Halbert said. “I give this county a negative zero for even having our customers go through that.”