SHELBY COUNTY, Tenn. — Early Tuesday morning, Shelby County commissioners approved over half a million dollars to assist consumers with long waits for license plates as the back-and-forth battle between the county government continues.
The meeting began Monday at 3 p.m. following an email to the commission from Shelby County Clerk, Wanda Halbert, requesting the resolution be pulled from the agenda and postponed until the next commission meeting on June 22.
Halbert said she was on the call with the Shelby County commissioner meeting but went to sleep around midnight due to the extended discussion on voting machines. Just after 1 A.M. on Tuesday morning, the commissioners voted to approve $540,000 from the Shelby County clerk’s budget.
Halbert cited her history of never approving funds from her department in the past as a reason to wait for the resolution approval, but the commission approved funds despite her written request before the meeting.
“Over the last week, I discovered that they were requesting that we authorize $540,000 for them to continue their mail service. I’ve never been asked to authorize anything, so why would I suddenly after four years of being in office, why would I be asked to do that,” Halbert said.
In a meeting with District 3 Shelby County Commissioner Mick Wright, he said he did not understand her request to not approve the resolution since Halbert initially asked for the funds to speed up the license plate process for customers.
“Nobody could understand why she asked for that to not go forward. We ended up reversing course and saying let’s go ahead and do this,” Wright said.
A common complaint from customers asserts the county government is gaining revenue from multiple sources – the customer and the newly allocated $540,000 budget. Customers waiting in lines said they disapprove of the five-dollar mailing fee they’re prompted with when checking out for a license plate because county is already getting funds from within the government.
Halbert said she agrees with the citizens and states the duplicate revenue is one of the reasons she is not signing off on the money to come from the Shelby County Clerk Office’s budget.
“That citizen is absolutely right. The funding for that is already there. It would be coming out of my budget already, but that money that’s coming in that the customers are paying, you’re taking that too,” Halbert said.
Halbert said she’s been keeping a record of the funds that have been taken in and out of the Clerk’s budget and reported her findings to local, state and federal authorities. In the meantime, Halbert said she hopes to continue working with the Shelby County Support Services mail system to increase the rate of license plates going to customers who have already bought their tags.