Shelby County Clerk Wanda Halbert is out of the country in Jamaica while her office is closed to work on a backlog of auto dealer packs, according to the Tennessee Treasury Comptroller.
The Comptroller’s Office announced Halbert’s trip in an email Monday afternoon, saying it showed “a lack of leadership and concern for his staff who have to deal with the backlog without his presence in the office.”
“The Clerk’s decision to travel to Jamaica this week shows that his apology made no sense,” Comptroller Jason Mumpower said. “His decision to go on a trip undermines his credibility and shows total recklessness. The clerk is AWOL while his staff is left trying to clean up the mess.
Halbert could not be reached for comment.
The clerk had previously announced that her offices would be closed from August 22-26 and September 19-23 for staff to work through the backlog of car dealer packs.
Shelby County auto dealers are currently receiving titles from the Shelby County Clerk’s Office from applications on cars sold in early May, said Kent Ritchey, former president of the Greater Memphis Automobile Dealers Association and president of Landers Auto. Group.
There are more than 8,500 dealer inquiries from new car dealerships sitting in the clerk’s desk that have yet to be processed, Ritchey said. If you add in used cars, that could go up to 10,000 or more – and that still doesn’t include occasional sales, like between friends.
Earlier this month, the Shelby County Commission voted to ask the State of Tennessee to temporarily take over the administrative function of distributing license plates in the county.
For weeks before that vote, the clerk’s office processed a backlog of thousands of license plates, with those plates sitting in the clerk’s office rather than being mailed out to customers.
And, customers seeking to get their plates in person have complained about long lines, often waiting outside the clerk’s desks in the heat or rain.
Halbert won re-election in the August 4 election with 49% of the vote, compared to 41% for Jeff Jacobs and 10% for Harold Smith, according to unofficial totals.
Katherine Burgess covers county government and religion. She can be reached at [email protected] or followed on Twitter @kathsburgess.