Shelby County prosecutor seeks attorney to remove Wanda Halbert

Shelby County District Attorney’s Office lead trial attorney Lee Whitwell confirmed he has hired attorney Robert Meyers to proceed with the case.

MEMPHIS, Tennessee — This story will be updated.

The Shelby County Prosecutor’s Office has hired an attorney to proceed with the case to remove Shelby County Clerk Wanda Halbert, the prosecutor’s office confirmed Friday.

Shelby County Prosecutor’s Office Chief Litigation Attorney Lee Whitwell confirmed that he has hired attorney Robert Meyers.

“In accordance with Tennessee Board of Professional Responsibility guidelines, County Attorney Iverson has an ethical conflict that prevents her from participating in this matter,” Whitwell said. “I have been assigned the authority to refer the matter to outside counsel and today I have retained Attorney Meyers to proceed with the case.”

Whitwell said he cannot comment in further detail on pending litigation.

Shelby County Circuit Court Judge Granted Motion to Dismiss Case

Shelby County Circuit Court Judge Felicia Corbin-Johnson granted the motion to dismiss the case to remove Shelby County Clerk Wanda Halbert from office on June 21.

Hamilton County District Attorney Coty Wamp filed a petition on behalf of the state of Tennessee to remove her from her position as Shelby County Clerk.

“The court is simply not convinced at this time by the state’s argument that they have jurisdiction, sorry, Ms. Wamp and your office, that they have jurisdiction to initiate this proceeding, pursuant to Tennessee Code Annotated 87106 A1” Corbin-Johnson said during the hearing. “The law is also very clear that if the plaintiff does not have standing (authority), then this court has no jurisdiction over the matter. And as we all know, this court is only authorized to try cases in which this court has jurisdiction over the matter.

“The court is of the view that Ms. Halbert’s motion has merit and should be granted. This court cannot fabricate jurisdiction or act in such a manner as to attempt to find jurisdiction, subject matter jurisdiction, when jurisdiction simply does not exist.”

The Shelby County Circuit Court case history shows the complaint was filed on Monday, May 6, and a subpoena was issued.

The 49-page petition asked the court to remove Halbert from office “due to willful neglect of the duty imposed upon the Shelby County Clerk by the laws of the State of Tennessee.”

Johnson said in court that the Hamilton County district attorney had no authority to initiate impeachment proceedings, since Tennessee law requires those proceedings to involve the same jurisdiction as the elected official in question. In Halbert’s case, impeachment proceedings would have to come from Shelby County District Attorney Steve Mulroy’s office.

In an earlier social media post, Halbert cited repeated requests he said he made for concerns within the office to be investigated.

“The Shelby County Clerk’s Office over the past five years has repeatedly ‘sounded the alarm’ regarding a number of findings/concerns (including financial ones),” Halbert wrote. “Such concerns have been documented and reported to multiple county and state legal entities, but have never been investigated. Thankfully, the day has come when direct attention to the issues we have raised FINALLY begins. While our team is unable to discuss these and other matters, we will not be afraid to do what the law requires of us. When given authority, we commit to being transparent and will report accordingly.”

The filing said Halbert consistently fails to submit monthly reports to the administrator in a timely manner and said there is no legitimate reason for not doing so. The petition also said the reports were inaccurate “and that the dollar amounts collected were not added up correctly.”

The petition alleges that Halbert’s reports became so “unreliable” that Shelby County’s finance department had to stop submitting final reports in a timely manner because the inaccuracies were jeopardizing Shelby County’s budget numbers.

According to the petition, Halbert claims he does not have enough funds to fully staff his office, but that he is consistently underfunded and has historically returned a “significant amount” of his budget to the county at the end of each fiscal year.

The filing also stated that the county estimates Halbert’s office owes hundreds of thousands of dollars to Shelby County government due to financial technology issues with the county.

He also said the “neglect of duties” has put a strain on Shelby County businesses, specifically car dealerships that rely on the Clerk’s Office to conduct business.

Hamilton County District Attorney Coty Wamp said she was disappointed by the outcome that her office had worked hard to achieve.

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