No state takeover of county clerk’s office, comptroller says

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — The state will not take over operations of the Shelby County Clerk’s office.

The Tennessee Comptroller’s office issued a statement Friday, Aug. 26, saying it would not get involved after the Shelby County Commission requested state assistance for all clerk’s office operations earlier this month.

READ MORE: Shelby County Commission requests state assistance for all clerk office operations

“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,” said Tennessee Comptroller of the Treasury Jason Mumpower. “The clerk was elected to do the job.”

Since May, FOX13 has been reporting on the backlog of license plates in Shelby County.

The county commission and the clerk’s office have blamed each other for falling behind.

Commissioners called it a “leadership and management” problem, pointing the finger at County Clerk Wanda Halbert. She insisted that her office doesn’t have the resources to keep up with demand.

The clerk’s office is currently closed for two weeks to catch up on the backlog of additional work the office is facing.

The controversy surrounding the office continued when Halbert reportedly left the country while the office is closed.

READ MORE: Wanda Halbert out of country as her offices close to catch up, official says

Back in June, Halbert asked for an investigation to find out where funds intended for the clerk’s office were being used.

At that time, a spokesperson sent FOX13 a letter from the Tennessee Comptroller of Treasury dated Sept. 2021. It was addressed to Halbert.

It read in part, “We believe there is no evidence of fraud, waste and abuse.” It goes on to say, “There will be no further audit or investigation of Shelby County or the County Clerk’s office by the comptroller.”

Read the complete latest statement from the Tennessee Comptroller’s office below.

“The Shelby County Clerk must work harder to serve her customers. I certainly share the frustration of the citizens, businesses, and the numerous elected officials who have spoken out or have been impacted by the clerk’s inability to get the job done.

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.” --Tennessee Comptroller of the Treasury Jason Mumpower

READ MORE:

Shelby County Clerk’s Office to close for two separate weeks to catch up on backlog

Shelby County Clerk blames Mayor Harris, county government for license plate backlog, lack of funds

Shelby County Clerk claims license plates are in the mail, blames county government for delay

LICENSE PLATE BACKLOG: Clerk’s office needs more resources to keep up with demand, Halbert says

Process to eliminate long lines at Shelby County Clerk’s Office locations begins