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"We shouldn't be forced to endure this type of labor" Shelby County Clerk blames other county leaders for license plate backlog

Shelby County Clerk Wanda Halbert also mentions the COVID-19 pandemic, staffing shortages, and lack of facility space as other challenges her department faces.
Credit: WATN

SHELBY COUNTY, Tenn. — Shelby County Clerk Wanda Halbert is giving ABC24 a rare look inside of her office. This comes as drivers grow more frustrated with long lines and wait times for their car tags and license plates.  

According to Shelby County Clerk Wanda Halbert, 35,000 customer's orders have been backlogged since May.

“This is actually the Shelby County Clerk's mail room,” said Halbert.

Inside the mail room are boxes of license plates and receipts, waiting to be stuffed and mailed.

“As you can see, it is pretty much a two-man operation,” said Halbert. “We often have to get other employees to help including our executive team. There's no job that we can't do. But we shouldn't be forced to endure this type of labor.”

According to Halbert, the executive teams help by stuffing plates at a table in a hallway.

“There were some who may have made a joke about the fact that even the executives are stuffing envelopes. This is just ridiculous, it’s too much," Halbert said.

Halbert said some of the office equipment is outdated and doesn’t work.

“I was just teasing one of the young ladies over here and ask them, have they ever seen anything like this? And they said, ‘Maybe in a movie,’” Halbert said. “Unfortunately, this is what we've been reduced to having to use.”

RELATED: Drivers, car dealers want state to step in over Shelby County Clerk's Office license plate backlog

Halbert sites the COVID-19 pandemic, staffing shortages, and lack of facility space as other challenges facing her department. According to Halbert, the Shelby County leaders are to blame for their working conditions and for the license plate backlog.

“We haven't had those issues before now,” she said.  “We did not have a problem from January, up until the end of May. Something suddenly happened with the process that caused us to run into a blip in the road. And that was the County thought we ran out of funding for mail services, and they stopped performing the services, they stopped the delivery. That's why we've had to catch up.”

Halbert said Tuesday that she supports the state assisting her office. Halbert said that it is unacceptable as dozens continue to wait in long lines for service across the county. She said her office is trying to fill open positions as quickly as possible.

RELATED: Here's how much the Shelby County Clerk's Office needs to mail out backlogged license plates

ABC24 reached out to the Mayor Lee Harris’ office and each Shelby County Commissioner.

District 4’s Commissioner Mark Billingsley said in a statement, "Clerk Wanda Halbert has chosen not to serve our citizens and business that simply want their car tags and disability placards. The County Mayor, County Commissioners and even State Comptroller have done everything we know to support. However, she continues to misinform, and takes no accountability. I pray the state will enjoin immediately as we are all being negatively affected."

District 13’s Commissioner Brandon Morrison said she “strongly disagrees with Halbert’s comments.”

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