MEMPHIS, Tenn.– Shelby County Clerk Wanda Halbert dodged another bullet Monday night as county commissioners voted against a resolution that would have called for a special counsel to investigate her office and pursue an ouster if warranted.
“It’s just really disappointing. We’ve got too many poor people in this community that are trying to do the right thing and all we get are excuses and no accountability,” said Shelby County Commissioner Mark Billingsley.
That’s why Commissioner Billingsley introduced the resolution but it failed by one vote with four commissioners abstaining. The resolution came after local auto dealers complained about ongoing problems of their customers waiting for titles and new plates.
Auto dealers claim the Shelby County Clerk is making their jobs more difficult by holding up thousands of their customer’s plates and titles as a backlog for those renewing their license plates continues to be a critical issue.
The clerk’s office reopened for the first time in a week Monday after being closed to catch up on work. Unfortunately, auto dealers say they are still suffering from poor management.
Kent Ritchey, President of Landers Auto Group, represents over 50 dealers in the Memphis metro. He said as of 3 p.m. Monday over 7,000 applications pending in the clerk’s office are from dealers alone.
“We don’t need this kind of drama in our lives,” Ritchey said. “Our lien holders, our people who finance these contracts they want their titles.”
In her first public appearance since her now infamous trip to Jamaica, County Clerk Wanda Halbert said her office made huge strides in the auto dealer backlog during the weeklong closure.
“We had 6,716 transactions in our dealer packs processed are two-thirds complete with that dealer work,” Halbert said.
But dealers are saying it’s still a problem and costs them thousands of dollars in manpower issuing temporary drive-out tags and manning the phones from concerned customers. Ritchey said a recall may be in Halbert’s future.
“I think it probably reached that point. I would be shocked if there wasn’t a drive to initiate enough signatures to get it done,” Ritchey said.
Meanwhile, they’re exploring ways to solve their backlog themselves.
“As a dealer body, we’re going to the legislature in January and we’re going to ask them for permission to issue tags,” Ritchey said.
The clerk’s office is expected to be closed again from September 19 through the 23rd.