FORT WORTH (1080 KRLD) – If you live in Tarrant County and you need a passport, don’t bother going to a county passport office.
“I decided it was in the best interest of all concerned, for our county taxpayers and our citizens, to close down our passport operation,” District Clerk Thomas Wilder announced Friday morning.
“With 35,000 passports last year; 33,000 so far this year when we got shut down, I did not make the decision lightly to close this down.”
The Dallas Passport Agency, which falls under the U.S. State Department, ordered the county’s six passport offices to close on June 24th as it launched an investigation into a possible data breach or fraud.
Wilder says those allegations are unfounded.
“They (investigators) told me there was no criminality, no fraud, no fraudulent documents, no loss of personal identifiable information,” Wilder said at a news conference Friday morning.
“At no time were any of the passport applications out of the care, custody and control of district clerk-authorized passport representatives.”
Wilder says the dispute with the Dallas Passport Agency has been brewing ever since the county passport offices fell under its jurisduiction in April of 2010.
“It’s an attack upon the integrity of our office with the important documents that we hold on behalf of the court and on behalf of the public, and I’m not happy about it.”
Wilder says he decided to keep the passport offices closed permanently after the Dallas Passport Agency allowed some offices to reopen under conditions that he says were too onerous to abide by.
“I found their reqirements to open up to be way less than cost-effective, that required a severe diminuition of customer service below what we had been offering, and I just didn’t see a reason to go forward,” Wilder said.
In all, 13 full-time and three part-time employees are displaced as a result of the offices’ permanent closure.
Wilder says about half of them have already landed new positions, while the rest have applied for other positions.
Tarrant County residents who need a passport will need to go to a post office or a district clerk’s office in another county to apply for one.
As for the Tarrant County District Clerk’s Office, the closure of its passport operation will mean a hit for its fiscal 2016 budget.
“There will be about $800,000 that will be deleted from my budget Tuesday,” Wilder says. “And my budget is a little over $10 million.”
(©2015 CBS Local Media, a division of CBS Radio Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)