Removing an elected officer

With Shelby County Clerk Wanda Halbert back in the news, citizens are asking why more isn’t being done, faster, to remove her from office.

I share your frustration. Here’s a summary of the available options, and where things stand with each.

There are only three ways for the County Clerk to be removed from office:

  1. She can resign
  2. Citizens can perform a recall
  3. A judge can determine negligence after an investigation by an attorney

Under state law, there is no authority apart from these. Nobody at the state or local level can “fire” the officer you elected, even if she allows all of her offices to close. Not the mayor, not the general assembly, and not the county commission.

Regarding point 1, I asked her to resign in March and renewed that request earlier this month. To date she has declined. But public pressure and support for this position within her own political party could help.

Regarding point 2, I have invited citizens to explore this option, as spelled out in Tennessee Code 2-5-151. To date there have been no takers. In fairness, it’s a very tall task, which is why state legislators have considered a bill to lower the signature threshold.

Regarding point 3, I successfully pressed for the initiation of this process during the budget negotiations in June. An investigation is underway by a special prosecutor from Hamilton County, and that inquiry must reach a conclusion before the DA and the judge can make a decision.

In the meantime, the only person responsible for what is happening with the County Clerk’s office is the County Clerk. Period.