In a testy email exchange with Metro Councilman Charlie Tygard last Friday, embattled Davidson County Clerk John Arriola asked for the withdrawal of legislation that urges him to refund $40 fees to couples he charged prior to performing their marriages.
A Tygard-sponsored nonbinding memorializing resolution, which requests Arriola return to nearly 3,000 couples more than $119,000 in cumulative wedding fees, is set to go before the Metro Council on Tuesday evening.
Tygard alerted Arriola of his resolution by providing an ultimatum, outlined in an initial email last week: either return on his own accord mandatory $40 wedding fees a state audit found he charged or Tygard promised to introduce the resolution that would formally request Arriola return the money.
If Arriola agreed to refund his fee collection, Tygard said he would withdraw the legislation.
But Arriola, in a Friday email, said his office has already returned fees to couples who have “requested” the return of fees.
“If you had been following the operations of my office, you would have learned that I have returned monies to any couple that so requested, as it relates to their wedding ceremony,” Arriola wrote to Tygard. “This is my policy as the County Clerk and it will continue. Therefore, I respectfully request that you withdraw your resolution as promised in your email.”
That prompted Tygard to ask Arriola a series of questions via email.
• During what time period was the refund offered?
• Of the almost 3,000 weddings performed, was the offer of refund given at the time of the ceremony? If not, how was the refund offer conveyed to these couples?
• How many refunds have been given? Over what period?
• Was refund by cash or check? Personal or business?
• If a couple wanted a refund today for a ceremony performed in the past, would you honor that request? If so, what is the procedure to request/receive the refund.
“John, we have been friends (at least in my eyes) for a long time so I hope you aren't taking this personally,” Tygard wrote. “I am fulfilling my responsibility as a Councilman to the constituents who have contacted me about this issue.”
In response, Arriola didn’t address Tygard’s questions. He instead reaffirmed that a policy is in place to refund couples, though he did not provide specifics.
“As you suggested in your email, if I had a process for returning monies to couples upon request, then you would withdraw the resolution,” Arriola wrote. “I advised you that such is my policy and it will remain in place. You stated that you would withdraw your resolution if such was my policy. I responded in good faith to your query. I assume you were acting in good faith with your promise to withdraw the resolution. So, pursuant to your assurance, please withdraw your resolution.”
Tygard capped Friday’s email exchange, asking Arriola to provide “answers to the questions I asked previously.”