MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Shelby County Clerk Wanda Halbert is on vacation in Jamaica while her county offices are closed to the public to catch up on a backlog of work.
“I’m not in Memphis,” Halbert said to WREG reporter Stacy Jacobson by phone Monday. “I’m on vacation.”
She would not comment on reports she was in Jamaica and said she would be back in Memphis on Wednesday. She also said she was working from home. When asked where her home is, Halbert replied that she could have a house anywhere she wanted.
Halbert also said this was time off she scheduled before her staff decided to close the office this week and she went back and forth between calling it vacation and time to recover from surgery.
WREG could see people working through the window of the locked building but state officials are now calling Halbert out.
State Comptroller Jason Mumpower said, “The clerk’s decision to travel to Jamaica this week shows that her apologies were meaningless. Her decision to take a trip damages her credibility and shows a complete lack of awareness. The clerk is AWOL while her staff is left behind trying to clean up the mess.
“The clerk’s trip shows a lack of leadership and concern for her staff who are left to address the backlog without her presence in the office. It also shows a lack of respect for the citizens of Shelby County who are forging many of the clerk’s services this week in hope that she is addressing her office’s deficiencies during the closure.”
As announced last week, all clerk’s office locations are closed to the public Aug. 22-26. Monday morning, several people hoping to get services like marriage licenses were disappointed to find Halbert’s downtown location closed. Workers were seen inside the office.
Halbert said in a letter to county officials and on her Facebook page Monday, that the closure was needed for her staff to “continue catching up on outstanding backlogs as a result of customer mail services being STOPPED for more than 2 months in May …”
Halbert said by phone her staff chose this week to close the offices, and her vacation dates were already set.
The clerk’s office has faced a barrage of complaints about long wait times and lines for services, specifically concerning a backlog of license plates. That has led county officials to consider asking the state for help in catching up.
Halbert has blamed the county mayor’s office, which previously handled mailing, for those delays.
Halbert was reelected to the clerk’s office this month.