With embattled Davidson County Clerk John Arriola on hand, the Metro Council delayed voting on a resolution Tuesday that calls for his removal from office, opting to defer the bill one meeting after it didn’t clear committee.
In attendance at the Metro Courthouse, Arriola declined to comment on the matter to The City Paper, but acknowledged he was pleased with the deferral.
The resolution, sponsored by Councilman Robert Duvall, came after a series of NewsChannel5 reports that showed Arriola charged $40 fees to couples he married, and did not record or disclose the transactions, among several other revelations.
But the council, by procedural rule, voted to defer the resolution after the council’s Rules-Confirmations-Public Elections Committee deferred it an hour earlier. In committee, members had several legal questions after considering a substitute resolution by Councilman Sam Coleman that would have asked Arriola to take an unpaid leave of absence instead. The Metro Department of Law is reviewing the proposal.
“That really clouded the issue,” Duvall said afterwards, promising to bring the bill back in two weeks, which will be the final meeting of the 2007-11 council.
“It’s a shame,” he added. “We should have had an up-or-down vote, but didn’t.”
The Arriola resolution — which is non-binding and has no direct policy effect — is similar to legislation that predated beleaguered Criminal Court Clerk David Torrence’s resignation from office.
But unlike the Torrence situation, there is already an investigation underway regarding Arriola: District Attorney Torry Johnson has asked the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation to look into Arriola’s actions.
Arriola’s legal representation seemed encouraged by the council’s deferral.
“We’re glad Mr. Arriola has been afforded one of the greatest principles in the United States and our law,” said attorney Bryan Lewis, who is representing Arriola, along with attorney George Barrett. “That is the presumption of innocence.
“We feel like Mr. Arriola is an innocent man, and we intend to prove that,” he said.