Waiting for action from District Attorney General Torry Johnson, the Metro Council deferred voting Tuesday on a resolution that calls for the resignation of embattled Davidson County Clerk John Arriola.
Councilman Robert Duvall revived the non-binding resolution after the state comptroller’s office released a scathing audit last month that found Arriola collected more than $119,000 in wedding payments over the past five years by charging $40 fees to couples. State law only allows his office to collect voluntary gratuities.
But the resolution was met with resistance in the council’s Rules-Confirmation-Public Elections Committee, which voted 10-0 to defer the legislation, overriding the will of Duvall, who said he wanted an “up-or-down vote.” By rule, the full council deferred the resolution at its regular meeting.
Committee members –– most of them Democrats, like Arriola –– said they hoped to give Johnson enough time to investigate the comptroller’s report, release a separate report and decide what action is warranted.
“We’re the legislative body,” Councilman Bo Mitchell said. “There’s another elected official to enforce the laws in Torry Johnson.”
Watching the council’s proceedings was Arriola himself, accompanied by legal counsel.
“It would have been inherently unfair for the committee to try to convict John before General Johnson came out with his report,” said Bryan Lewis, Arriola’s attorney.
But Duvall likened his effort to a different resolution that called for the resignation of Criminal Court Clerk David Torrence after the clerk acknowledged working only three days a week, among other poor work habits. The council approved the Torrence resolution, and he later resigned.
“We went to this same mat with David Torrence with much less information than what we have here, and we found Mr. Torrence needed to go,” Duvall said.
The Arriola resolution is set to go before the council again on Feb. 21, but the committee would presumably vote to defer it again if Johnson still hasn’t released his recommendations.
Twenty minutes of committee discussion on Duvall’s resolution did yield a touchy exchange between Lewis and At-large Councilman Charlie Tygard, who asked whether Arriola reported wedding-fee income “in the year” that he collected the money.
Lewis: “Mr. Arriola has paid all his taxes on the wedding fees.”
Tygard: “Were the taxes paid in the year they were collected?”
Lewis: “Proper returns have been filed for all of the wedding fees. He has paid his taxes, and that is a nonissue.”
Tygard: “Answer in a ‘yes or no.’ Were his taxes paid in the year that the income was collected?”
Lewis: “I’m answering your question, Councilman Tygard. His taxes were paid, and he has no problems with the Internal Revenue Service.”
•The council voted 29-5 to approve a non-binding memorializing resolution urging Director of Schools Jesse Register to reinstitute the district’s “memoranda of understanding” labor-negotiation policy with support staff unions.
Register recently moved to dissolve the MOU policy with SEIU and United Steelworkers unions, which represent custodians and bus drivers, respectively.
In a statement, Metro Nashville Public Schools said the council’s resolution is “based on misinformation."
•The council approved a $300,000 urban development action grant to assist ServiceSource, which specializes in service revenue management, as it prepares to expand its office at downtown Fourth Avenue and Church Street.