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State Rep. Mark White wants to make it easier to recall Shelby County Clerk Wanda Halbert

White said he wanted to make the change after concerns at the Shelby County Clerk’s Office with license plate backlogs, long lines, and office closures.
Credit: Brittani Moncrease

MEMPHIS, Tenn — Tennessee State Rep. Mark White (R-Memphis) announced Thursday he plans to file legislation to make it easier to remove a county elected official from office, amid controversy over Shelby County Clerk Wanda Halbert.

Rep. White said the legislation would change state law to change the number of signatures required for a recall election to 1% of registered voters in a county, if a county legislative body also passes a resolution of no confidence in the county officer. Currently the number of signatures required is 15% of registered voters.

White said he wanted to make the change after concerns at the Shelby County Clerk’s Office with license plate backlogs, long lines, and office closures. Halbert’s office closed for one week in August, and is closed again this week to address backlogs. The Tennessee Comptroller confirmed during the August closure, Halbert was out of the country for part of it, in Jamaica.

Halbert was re-elected to her post in the August election.

White said if approved, the change would take effect immediately.

“Citizens of all community deserve the best from their elected officials,” White said. “The issues that have plagued the Shelby County Clerk’s Office are simply unacceptable. Government works for the people, and this situation represents an egregious dereliction of duties by a public servant.”

Following the legislation announcement from Rep. White, Halbert held a press conference.

“The office is already running efficiently,” Halbert said. “What held us back from running efficiently for three months was the fact that someone outside - an organization outside of our office – made the decision to lie and misrepresent to the public that we had a backlog. We’ve never had a backlog.”

However, on July 27, 2022, Halbert said this: “Within a matter of some weeks, we’re now at July 27, 2022. We’re waiting on them to finish printing out the receipts so we can stuff them now and this will give us an opportunity to clean up some of the other backlog work.”

Halbert did end her press conference by saying she does not anticipate any future closures.

Rep. White said according to Shelby County’s charter, a county official cannot be recalled in the first or last 180 days of their term.

The Tennessee General Assembly reconvenes on January 10, 2023.

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