PLANO, Texas (CBSDFW.COM) – Collin County’s District Clerk strongly criticized the Dallas Passport Agency and Bureau of Consular Affairs over a two-month-long passport office shutdown, which a new letter indicated Thursday will likely continue.
The letter, sent to a Collin County commissioner from a passport manager in Washington, was the first communication Lynne Finley said her office has had from the U.S. State Department since December.
Finley said the letter stated there were concerns over an employee’s familiarity with workers at a local company that expedites the passport process for fee. It also mentioned a complaint from a customer who believed he had been charged twice for passport services.
“We have no idea why they’ve made the subjective decision they’ve made, and treated us in a manner that is so disrespectful and unprofessional and nobody’s minding the store,” Finley said Thursday.
The two county offices under her direction in Plano and McKinney process as many as 40,000 applications a year.
That all ended December 21, when Britany Williams, the director of the Dallas Passport Agency, sent a letter suggesting the facilities may have failed to follow unnamed guidelines and procedures.
Investigators from the State Departments Diplomatic Security Service had just finished meeting with Finley and two clerks, as part of a five-year-long criminal investigation related to passport fraud.
The investigation is said to have involved Nigerian nationals, connected to crimes that may include drugs and child sex crimes. A local company that expedites the passport process for a fee is also said to be involved.
Finley said DSS investigators cleared her office of involvement, but did point out flaws in the Dallas agencies processes, and believes the suspension is retaliation for that.
“Some of the very processes we suggested to them over the years, might have been able to help prevent some of this fraud, but they’ve told us stay in your own lane, this is our job and we don’t care what you have to say,” Finley said.
She expressed frustration at the new complaints raised in the letter Thursday. It would be common she said, for a clerk to be familiar with employees at an expediting service because people and paperwork regularly moves between those offices.
The complaint about a double charge was for amount of $270 and $280 she said, which doesn’t match any service the county offices provide. Transaction receipts would likely show it was not a county office that handled that transaction, and more likely one of the expediting services that did, she said.
A State Department official had no comment on the suspension Thursday.
Friction with the Dallas Passport Agency led to Tarrant County District Clerk Tom Wilder closing all passport offices in that county in 2015.
He said in January that the Collin County situation sounded very similar to what he went through.
The Dallas Passport Agency website has added information on its website specifically for people in the McKinney and Plano areas, directing them toward post offices and a library for passport needs.