Tarrant County District Clerk Tom Wilder said Friday he’ll shut down the county’s six passport offices because he’s in a spat with the State Department.
Not so fast, Tom.
Neither Wilder nor the State Department would say what the spat is all about — and they haven’t since those offices stopped processing passport applications back on June 24.
All Tarrant County residents have been told is that Wilder wants out.
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But 35,000 people submitted their passport applications for processing by Wilder’s offices last year, and it’s not in the best interest of the county for that opportunity to just vanish without explanation.
At a Friday news conference, Wilder referred to State Department actions as “an insult” and “an attack on the credibility of our office.”
He added, “Quite frankly, I’m not happy about it.”
For its part, the State Department sent a letter to the county on Sept. 3 outlining conditions under which the offices could resume passport processing. But a State Department spokesman would not reveal what was in the letter or what brought it on.
Wilder said federal officials prevented him from discussing the details. He referred vaguely to “an element of retaliation” from the State Department, apparently dating back to 2010 when Tarrant County came under the jurisdiction of the federal Dallas Passport Agency.
And he said he had “chosen not to continue any relationship with the Dallas passport office.”
Apparently he expects everyone in Tarrant County to take his word for it that he and his office are being treated poorly by federal officials, some of them from Dallas.
Tarrant County residents shouldn’t have to accept that.
Residents still have been able to get passports. Passport desks in many post offices process applications, and some have increased their hours.
But up until all of this started, Wilder’s office was performing a service that 35,000 people a year were able to take advantage of. Now he won’t, and he won’t say why. That’s not acceptable.