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Wanda Halbert fires back at County Commission; invokes Whistleblower Act over misreported funds

Halbert sent a letter to the Shelby County Commission saying she was extremely offended by the backlash directed towards her.

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Shelby County Clerk Wanda Halbert sent a letter to the Shelby County Commission saying more than $6 million per year in county revenue went unreported since she took office in 2018, one of many issues she said she inherited when she took office.

"You've seen the pictures, you've seen the lines, our facilities were not and still aren't up to code, and I've been begging [the Commission] to help fix this for years," Halbert told ABC24. "It is clear that I wasn't given the resources I needed to do my job."

In her letter, Halbert invoked the Federal Whistleblower Protection Act, which protects government employees against punishment for reporting alleged money issued in government offices to the public. 

This comes in response to the County Commission's scheduled vote of no confidence against her, which is set to take place August 8 after the commission delayed the vote, originally scheduled to take place in July. 

Halbert also claimed a mailroom that reports to Shelby County Mayor Lee Harris sent her office an email in May which said county postage had been stopped due to a lack of funds, but that such a lack of funds would be impossible. 

This, she said, has had her office's hands tied when it comes to clearing the backlog of new license plates.

"If you make a decision for this office without actually working in this office, you're going to cause a problem," Halbert said regarding the email she said stopped the postage.

“I don’t know why she’s blaming us for something we have no authority to do," County Commissioner Van Turner told ABC24. "We have tried to work with her, but we were not elected to run her office – she was. We will continue to work with her to fix any issues.”

“It’s hard to explain madness and irrational behavior," County Commissioner Mark Billingsley told ABC24. "The bottom line is we have thousands and thousands of people waiting for their car tags and we’ve tried everything we can do to work with her. This has become a spectacle.”

The sponsors of the vote of no confidence - Republicans Mark Billingsley and Brandon Morrison - pushed to defer that resolution until the next meeting and there was no objection. 

The rare type of resolution came at the same time Halbert was on the ballot during early voting ahead of the August election, as the Democrat seeks another term.

The proposed resolution follows ongoing criticism from the public after weeks or months-long delays for new license plates, lengthy lines outside at office locations, and a slow hiring process to fill vacant positions.

Besides the 'no confidence' item, the commission resolution also asks the state to temporarily take over the distribution of license plates from the Clerk's office and cut down on a lengthy backlog.

RELATED: 'Total chaos': Temporary tags extended by state amid clerk's office backlog

Halbert said not all issues have been fixed, especially with documenting funds. Additionally, Halbert claims the office's monthly reported revenue is about $6 million less than it should be.

RELATED: Shelby County Clerk blames mayor for long lines, license plate delays

"I have been locally accused of and/or reported at the local and state level of the very things I have reported/documented," Halbert said in the letter.

You can read the letter below:

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