MEMPHIS, Tenn. — The state of Tennessee does not have the authority to take over operations for the Shelby County Clerk’s Office, but local authorities may pursue an ouster of the clerk, the state’s comptroller said Friday.
County Clerk Wanda Halbert has faced complaints over long lines and delays for license plates and other services for months. Those complaints prompted the Shelby County Commission to ask the state for help.
Comptroller of the Treasury Jason Mumpower has been vocal in his criticism. In a statement Friday, Mumpower said Halbert must work harder to serve customers.
But as for state intervention, he said:
“Our Office understands the desire for state intervention, but, after careful research, we have determined there is no statutory authority or precedent that would allow the State of Tennessee to take over the operational duties of the clerk’s office. The clerk was elected to do the job.”
“This is a local matter, and I believe the mayor and county commission should continue to explore what legal remedies may be available to help better serve Shelby countians. State law does afford local officials the ability to pursue an ouster, and it may be time for them to consider whether or not that is appropriate.”
WREG broke the news Monday that Halbert was on vacation while her office was closed earlier this week, reportedly as her staff continued working to relieve a backlog of work. She was in Jamaica.
County Mayor Lee Harris was among the elected officials who expressed disappointment at Halbert’s decision to go on vacation. County Commissioner Mark Billingsley has publicly sought a recall for Halbert, who was re-elected to her office Aug. 4.
Halbert has blamed inadequate funding and health problems.