The Tarrant County district clerk’s office cannot process passport applications until an investigation into a “possible infraction” is completed by the U.S. State Department, County Administrator G.K. Maenius said Tuesday.
The district clerk’s office has not been able to accept applications since it was notified by the State Department of the investigation on June 25, Maenius said.
The clerk’s office has processed about 33,000 applications so far this year. As a registered agent of the State Department, the office has been handling passport applications since 1999, currently at six locations around the county.
TV stations were reporting Tuesday night that the process was halted because of “fraudulent documents” and a “suspected data breach.
Both Maenius and District Clerk Tom Wilder said they knew nothing about that.
“There was no reference to a data breach,” Maenius said.
“They haven’t told us anything about fraudulent documents,” Wilder insisted. “All I can discuss with you is what I put on the website.”
His note on the website states:
“We regret that we cannot accept your passport application today, due to an issue with the U.S. Department of State. Hopefully, this issue will be resolved in the near future and we can once again serve you. We regret any inconvenience you may experience.”
“If I knew the reason why, I would have already moved on it,” Wilder said.
The investigation may take three to four weeks, county officials were told.
Maenius said the county offered to do whatever it could to get the investigation completed.
“We immediately obeyed the request from the state department and reached out and contacted them the next day to assist them in expediting their inquiry,” he said. “We don’t know what the violation is of, if there was a violation.”
Summer is the busiest season for applications and local post offices, the other “registered agent” for the State Department, can’t handle the load alone, he said.
Fort Worth resident Bonnie Bruington said her passport experience was “highly unusual.”
Bruington said she went to the Tarrant County Southwest Subcourthouse on Granbury Road in far south Fort Worth about June 25 and asked to renew her passport.
“It was just so strange. I couldn’t get it renewed because they said they couldn’t give me any information on passports,” she said.
Bruington said she pressed further.
“I said, ‘Could I at least pick up the paperwork to take with me?,’ and the lady said, ‘We can’t give you any,’ ” she recalled.
“I said, ‘Could you tell me once I apply how long it takes,’ and she said, ‘We can give you no information about passports.’ ”
Bruington said all she was told was that there were some “issues with the State Department.”
On its website, the State Department has press releases on its “Passport Newsroom” that explain why various passport offices might be closed, but none relate to Tarrant County.
State Department representatives did not respond to telephone calls or email Tuesday night.
Tarrant County’s application locations processed 35,000 passport applications last year, Wilder said.
He said his office has passed audits for the 15 years it has handled the applications.
Monica S. Nagy, 817-390-7792
Where to get a passport
▪ Other county offices in North Texas are still processing passport applications and those can be found at uspassporthelpguide.com/passport/texas
▪ The U.S. Postal Service is aware of the problems with Tarrant County and has expanded hours from 8 a.m. until 3 p.m. at the Jack D. Watson post office, 4600 Mark IV Pkwy., in Fort Worth.
▪ Twenty-three other post offices in Tarrant County are processing applications by appointment and those locations can be found at usps.com