Council asks Arriola to resign, return wedding fees

Wednesday, February 22, 2012 at 1:19am

The Metro Council went on record Tuesday calling for the resignation of Davidson County Clerk John Arriola, and for the embattled elected official to return wedding-fee income he collected from couples. 

“We made a statement tonight,” said Councilman Robert Duvall, who led the charge to call for Arriola’s resignation.

The council voted 25-5, with seven abstentions, to approve a nonbinding memorializing resolution that calls for Arriola to step down from his office, a measure the council had deferred two weeks ago.

In a separate voice vote, the council approved a resolution –– also nonbinding –– that requests Arriola refund $40 fees he charged to each of nearly 3,000 couples prior to performing their wedding ceremonies. That financial figure, according to a state comptroller’s audit, totals more than $190,000 over five-plus years.

Arriola and his attorney Bryan Lewis, present while council committees discussed the pieces of legislation earlier Tuesday, were not available for comment following the full council meeting.

“This is about honor,” said At-large Councilman Charlie Tygard, who introduced the measure asking Arriola to return his fee income. “This is about doing the right thing for the citizens who may have felt they didn’t have a choice.”

Tuesday’s votes mark the first council action following the release of a state report in January that found Arriola had been collecting $40 from couples he performed marriages for, when state law allows him to only accept a voluntary gratuity.

But the council’s actions Tuesday carry no policy effect.

The council passed a similar resolution over the summer that called for the resignation of Criminal Court Clerk David Torrence after media reports revealed his sporadic work habits. Torrence later resigned.

Two weeks ago, the council voted to defer Arriola’s resignation resolution to wait for recommendations from District Attorney General Torry Johnson, who is still reviewing the comptroller’s findings.

Both Johnson and the Metro Department of Law have the authority to pursue the state “ouster” clause, which could force Arriola’s exit from office.

“Other than getting some TV time and ink in the newspaper, we don’t have a role in this process,” Councilman Jason Holleman said, alluding to the legal process that is unfolding.

Nonetheless, the council voted to ask Arriola to step down, even though the district attorney’s office hasn’t weighed in on Arriola’s actions. Holleman abstained from the vote.

At the council’s Rules-Confirmations-Public Elections Committee, Lewis, Arriola’s attorney, said the county clerk’s office had already implemented operational changes recommended in the comptroller’s report.

Lewis also said Arriola has been returning $40 to those couples who are unhappy and came to the clerk’s office to get their money. He said seven couples have done so: “I don’t think this is quite the earth-shattering issue some people think it is,” Lewis said.

“Mr. Arriola is a man of his word,” he said.

But council members Tuesday questioned whether Arriola had truly “advertised” his refund option. Pressing Lewis on the level of advertising, Tygard said he would cover the payment of postage to send couples notices of the offer.

Tygard also pushed Lewis on whether Arriola reported income from wedding fees “in the year” when they were collected. Tygard asked the same questions earlier this month. He became incensed Tuesday when Lewis didn’t seem to answer what Tygard called a “yes or no” question.

“My frustration is the inability to get a simple ‘yes or no’ answer to a question that to me is the crux,” Tygard said.

How council members voted on the resolution to call for Arriola’s resignation is as follows:

Aye (25): Garrett, Tygard, Scott Davis, Westerholm, Anthony Davis, Bennett, Pridemore, Pardue, Jernigan, Glover, Stites, Stanley, Claiborne, Tenpenny, Gilmore, Weiner, Evans, Harmon, Blalock, Dominy, Johnson, Potts, Dowell, Duvall, Todd

No (5): Harrison, Hunt, Moore, Baker, Langster

Abstain (7) : Barry, Steine, Matthews, Holleman, McGuire, Bedne, Mitchell

Absent (3): Maynard, Banks, Allen

15 Comments on this post:

By: Shane Smiley on 2/22/12 at 2:41

Both Banks and Arriola need to go. It is high time our elected officials start to act like the pillars of the community they were elected to be.
I understand people make mistakes. If you make the mistakes these two have made, they need to be fired.
How can banks act in the best interest of the community when he can not even keep his own life in check. Brady, Do the right thing. Resign your post on the council and focus on rebuilding your family.
Arriola, you have been caught cheating the people you were elected to serve. Time for you to step down.

We, the citizens of Davidson County should demand more from our elected officials. We can start by sending letters to the Mayor and Council and demand these two officials are removed from office immediately.

By: govskeptic on 2/22/12 at 6:21

Interesting voting groups on this resolution. The Black Caucus voted No,
the Liberal caucus Abstained, and the right Rev. Maynard and our newest
news maker Banks were absent - not voting.

By: Ask01 on 2/22/12 at 6:29

I agree with Shane.

Banks has been tainted. He is damaged goods and, even should his constituents and family forgive his yielding to temptation, some on the council and most certainly many in the greater Metro community will not. Nor will they forget. Even if cleared of charges, his effectiveness had been greatly diminished.

While I don't believe as most he should drink the hemlock, or fall on his sword, he should take the high road and quietly resign.

Arriola should also stop the circus, step down for the good of the council and Metro, and work to make restitution. He should also find a lawyer with a personality less abrasive than a wood rasp. The exchange I witnessed on a news broadcast conveyed the notion Mr. Arriola has something to hide.

One more obervation; Councilman Tygard should automatically be excluded from consideration to fill the County Clerk position. The suggestion was advanced here previously this was a power grab by Mr. Tygard so, it is reasonable to me he not seek this seat to prevent eventhe appearance of political skullduggery.

We are, however, discussing Metro politics, so I am certain the behind the scenes drama is building to a spectacular crescendo.

By: Ask01 on 2/22/12 at 6:32

An interesting and telling observation, govskeptic. I cannot wait for the next chapter. This is better than the Flash Gordon and Buck Rogers weekly serials.

By: shinestx on 2/22/12 at 8:00

"Buck Rogers"??? "Flash Gordon"??? Gawd, how old are you?

By: spooky24 on 2/22/12 at 8:20

If your still waiting for a criminal warrant charging him with theft don't hold your breath. Of course we know where this all came from,Herr Dean wants his own stooge in the office. Remember former vice mayor who rallied the black vote to defeat English bill was rewarded with the Criminal Clerks job after Dean ran out Torrence. With no qualifications or business/law enforcement credentials political favoritism reigns from the Mayors office.
Interesting that the 'minority' caucus bailed on it. At least Fabian used some common sense.,


By: localboy on 2/22/12 at 8:44

TrueTV couldn't make this stuff up...

By: dargent7 on 2/22/12 at 10:05

"7 couples have come back asking for a $40. refund." That proves Arriola is "cooperating, with the people". Ok, $280. returned as compared to $120,000. taken in.
What's that, 0.25% ?
These councilmen, legislators, Banks, Arriola, and the guy who sponsored the "guns in bars" bill with the DUI are all clowns, for our amusement.
The gal who wants hens in backyards probably has ties to Tyson. The guy who wants to build slaughter houses fro horses probably has ties to the Kentucky Derby.
Always, follow the money, the sex.
It's not at all funny.

By: Bellevuebullets on 2/22/12 at 1:55

I read about Councilman talking about honor, integrity, etc. The best way to take the spotlight of yourself is to throw it at someone else. Has anyone on the Council realized how much money has been funneled from Metro Parks and Recreation to certain Councilman family member(s)? How can a person run a business with most expenses paid by Metro Parks and Recreation. Free electricity, sand, free grass cutting, free light maintenance, free water and sewer. While pocketing $80,000+ a year for a non-profit mainly run on the backs of Metro Tax payers and exclusive rights to use the Fields granted by the Metro Parks? Arriola is small potatoes compared to these numbers. Get on with the real investigation!!!!

By: MJR on 2/22/12 at 2:46

He demanded the money in cash, obviously knowing his actions were not going to be viewed as accepting a "gratuity" by those who paid. Finally it was made public by the media. Our leaders should demand his resignation and he should not be able to hold public office or a local/state paid job. There should be no question as to reimbursement for a fraudulent act.

By: Shane Smiley on 2/22/12 at 6:53

7 Council members abstained from the Arriola vote. This means the constituents of these Council members who chose to "Play politics" were left without a voice. Abstaining is the same as saying "That's o.k."
Pitiful, pitiful, pitiful.

By: wasaw on 2/23/12 at 9:34

We witnessed the guts, or lack of, Tuesday evening, when our overloaded 40 man/lady Metro Council voted on such a simplistic matter of theft , i.e. STEALING. What is it about morals and corruptions our council doesn't understand?

Twenty-five (25) members voted "Yes" for the non-binding resolution. Five (5) voted no. Seven (7) didn't have the guts to vote; they abstained. Abstaining is for spineless people who are afraid they'll be caught next and hope there are enough of self-like members to cover their backs. It's a weak council that we now have. When a topic as clear and defined as this "Arriola" theft , there shouldn't be one single member who doesn't see this one clear. No one in America is guaranteed a political office. It must be earned by gaining the respect of the voters. Arriola has lost ALL respect except from his low-life attorney, Bryan Lewis, who is getting paid from the stolen monies. That's why Arriola can't return it all. Lewis has it.. Arriola's fate now rest in the hands of our do nothing District Attorney, Tori Johnson. By law, of Arriola's frauds must be dealt with individually, making them all "misdemeanors". Johnson's investigators are not going to put a lot of effort into investigation 3000 possible misdemeanors. It just won't happen. Even if charged, Arriola will be allowed to plea to some ridiculous watered down charge to cover his theft from the next generation.

Voters have very short memories. Does anyone remember member Councilman Roonie Steine, the shoplifter? He is now the chairman of the council's Budget Committee. Can you say :"The fox is guarding the henhouse"?

By: dgallent on 2/23/12 at 1:20

This is why we have elections. Let the people decide. After all they are the one who elected them.

I am sure Arriola did what others have done only he got turned in by some nitwit politician who wants the job.

As for Banks....where is the harm? Let him run on his record. It is interesting that some group puts on a seminar for $350 that gets the charges dismissed....Hookers too?

Follow the money....boys and girls....our nation and our city have much more pressing problems..

By: pswindle on 2/23/12 at 3:35

I agree, wait until election time and see if they survive. It is about time to vote Tygard out.

By: Jughead on 2/24/12 at 2:23

It is sick that an elected official who pocketed $190,000 behind our backs remains in office. Corrupt POS.