Wanda Halbert addresses critics after clerk’s office closes for a week to catch up

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Shelby County Clerk Wanda Halbert responded to what she calls ‘rumors’ and ‘allegations’ after the state comptroller said she was AWOL instead of at her job.

Halbert recently took a trip to Jamaica while her office was closed to the public so workers could catch up on the license plate backlog.

RELATED: Shelby County Clerk’s Office reopens after week-long closure

She faced criticism from local and state officials and customers after it was revealed she took a trip to while her office was closed to the public.

“There is no one here who has worked as many days in these last four years that I have worked. That’s a matter of fact,” she said.

During a news conference Monday, Halbert defended her decision to go on vacation while her office was shut down.

“I am not an employee with a job who has to go to a boss and ask for approval to be out of office,” she said.

“I will not tolerate anyone suggesting that my personal business, my personal life should be played before the public.”

Earlier this month, Halbert said the week-long closure was necessary so employees could catch up on the license-plate backlog.

During the press conference, Halbert said her trip was planned long before the decision was made to shut down her office. She also said she worked every day she was gone.

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

Halbert said last week’s closure allowed her staff to catch up on some of the backlogs in license plate mailing. She said they are now about two-thirds complete with their auto dealer applications.

“We were not going to be able to remediate the problem that was caused by the backlog of mail without shutting down and taking just a little time to clean up the operation,” she said.

Meantime, drivers FOX13 spoke with just want to know when they will get the tags they purchased months ago.

“You try to be understanding. I understand that things happen. But it’s kind of inexcusable in a big city like ours. There’s got to be a better way,” Margo Wilkins of Memphis said.

Halbert blames the backlog in license plate mailing on the Shelby County Mayor’s Office.

She claims the mayor’s office did not mail the plates for months because they mistakenly believed there was insufficient money for postage.

MORE: Shelby County Clerk’s Office closes early on Friday, turning away two dozen people in line

“I’ve had my grandbabies here with a sleeping bag. A sleeping bag is in my office right now. So please don’t demean my integrity by suggesting I decided to close the doors and go AWOL and lay on a beach somewhere,” Halbert said.

Halbert’s office is scheduled for another shutdown the week of September 19.

When asked if it’s still needed, Halbert said she wasn’t sure yet.