The long wait

Waiting on Wanda

If there’s one thing we’ve come to expect when it comes to Shelby County Clerk Wanda Halbert, it’s a long wait.

And here we are waiting again.

Last week, a circuit court judge ruled District Attorney General Coty Wamp of Hamilton County lacked standing in the case against Clerk Halbert. The judge dismissed the ouster petition Wamp had filed in May.

Wamp was appointed as special prosecutor on June 29, 2023.

As we reach the one year anniversary of that appointment this Saturday, we’re back to square one.

“The waiting is the hardest part.”

Tom Petty

Who has standing?

With Wamp ruled out and choosing not to appeal the decision, the options for moving forward returns to the following individuals:

  • Shelby County Attorney Marlinee Iverson
  • District Attorney General Steve Mulroy
  • Tennessee Attorney General Jonathan Skrmetti

Let’s take these in order.

Marlinee Iverson

Shelby County Attorney Marlinee Iverson kicked off this process with a letter to the other two listed individuals, requesting they investigate.

Because as a general rule Iverson represents Shelby County employees and officers, pursuing an ouster investigation against a client would present a conflict of interest.

Steve Mulroy

Ninety-three days after the Iverson letter, District Attorney General Mulroy also took a pass.

The DA’s office announced Mulroy had “requested the appointment of an independent prosecutor” due to “the politically sensitive nature of this inquiry.”

District Attorney General Coty Wamp of Hamilton County was appointed to the task. But Wamp’s office did not get started right away, either, telling media she and her team put the investigation “on pause” in the beginning, hoping that the issues would resolve themselves and Halbert would “start doing better.”

That changed in November, when Clerk Halbert was evicted from the Poplar Plaza office location, prompting the Shelby County Board of Commissioners to pass a resolution asking Wamp for a status update. Wamp’s office said the eviction had “jump-started” the investigation.

Wamp provided an update to the board in December, and five months later, she filed the petition for ouster. The time lapse from appointment to filing was 311 days, when it was time to begin waiting on the court to act.

Once again, there was a recusal, with Circuit Court Judge Cedrick Wooten asking for the case to be reassigned. That’s when Circuit Court Judge Felicia Corbin-Johnson took up the matter. A month later, she dismissed the case brought by Wamp.

Jonathan Skrmetti

Skrmetti’s spokesman told media the Attorney General would not refile the petition, saying, “Ordinarily, the responsibility of the ouster of county officials falls upon local district attorneys or county attorneys,” and that “the political inconvenience to a district attorney is not enough to warrant the involvement of this office.”

Do your job

The Halbert investigation has become a hot potato. Nobody wants to touch it.

But the problems in that office have not been resolved, and new issues are still coming to light. The lack of resolution is making both the county and the state look incompetent.

Somebody needs to act. Find a way around the conflict. Step outside your comfort zone. Find a solution.

Waiting and waiting

Shelby County citizens have become accustomed to the wait.

We’ve endured long lines, suffered though license plate mailing backlogs, and have been fatigued by office shutdowns and closures.

We waited 1,002 days for the Germantown satellite office on Exeter to be replaced until the long-delayed “soft opening” of the Riverdale office.

We saw a repeat performance with the Poplar Plaza satellite office, where the patient representatives of Finard Properties spent 413 days trying to avoid sending Clerk Halbert an eviction notice.

We learned that the Shelby County Trustee and the Shelby County Finance Department spent 974 days waiting for Clerk Halbert to submit timely and accurate monthly revenue reports.

And now we’ve waited 457 days for relief from the justice system since the Iverson letter.

We’re used to the waiting, but we’re tired of it. It’s time for something to change.