Embattled Criminal Court clerk to consider paying restitution

Thursday, May 19, 2011 at 9:53pm

Embattled Davidson County Criminal Court Clerk David Torrence told Metro Council members Thursday he would consider forms of restitution, including sacrificing his salary, to make up for the number of days he hasn’t been in his office.

At Thursday’s council budget hearing for the Criminal Court’s office, the focus inevitably turned to a recent WSMV-TV report that revealed Torrence had been working only three days a week and using his government vehicle for personal errands, including at least one trip to a liquor store. In the report, Torrence showed no remorse.

Staring down the beleaguered clerk, Councilman Phil Claiborne thanked Torrence for coming during a “difficult time” and directed attention to a letter Torrence wrote to the council asking for forgiveness.

“You’ve recognized your wrong,” Claiborne said. “Usually during a time when forgiveness is an issue, there’s also restitution. That’s the other side of that coin.”

Torrence said he’d be “willing to consider” some form of restitution.

Later, At-large Councilman Charlie Tygard — sponsor of a council-approved memorializing resolution calling for Torrence’s removal from office — asked the clerk if his willingness to consider restitution includes deducted salary for lost work time and his use of the vehicle.

“I’m willing to sit down and consider all those things,” Torrence said.

Torrence, elected last year to a fifth term in office, earns $125,000 annually. 

Tygard told The City Paper he envisions Torrence relinquishing 40 percent of his past earnings, proportionate to the two days he’s skipped every work week. Claiborne said part of Torrence’s restitution could be a reduced salary moving forward.

But Councilman Sam Coleman encouraged Torrence to wait until all legal action is complete before agreeing to some type of restitution, pointing out the difference between a “legal wrong versus a moral wrong.”

“We just need to make sure we hear from both sides,” Coleman cautioned. 

Metro Finance Director Rich Riebeling said he did not know how the structuring of Torrence’s restitution would work, noting that he hadn’t been delivered a proposal.

“It’s never been done to my knowledge,” Riebeling said, calling it “new ground.”  

25 Comments on this post:

By: Funditto on 5/19/11 at 8:26

He wouldn't be doing this if he hadn't been caught. So just throw the bum out. Take away his benefits, too. He can get a real job and work like the rest of us.

By: modern4life on 5/19/11 at 10:32

Metro would be setting a seriously bad example by letting this person stay on the job.

By: Xemo on 5/19/11 at 11:37

Well I'm glad he will consider restitution. I guess the people of Dvidson county would just have to go suck eggs if he didn't agree to pay back time and money that he essentially stole from the voters. I've not seen this kind of arrogance since, since, well since I read the national news.

By: us2 on 5/20/11 at 12:44

He had NO regrets about ANY of his actions when interviewed by the TN network!!! He was so cocky too!!! Even when caught.. he was not about to make or take any action on his own to make things right. NOW he is begging to keep his job and pay back restitution. He doesn't deserve the 6 figure salary and car and most likely gas too!!! His son's jobs should be posted and all applicants interviewed. It would be a VERY WRONG message to allow this public official to remain in office with a tap on the wrist for getting caught stealing from us poor citizens. I hope the council requires restitution, criminal charges if possible, and fire him and take away ALL benefits. He deserves NOTHING. PLEASE councilmen do NOT allow this person to remain in office or to leave office with benefits. He is a criminal and he got caught.
period. Anyone else would be paying his dues now. It is way past time for him to be GONE!!
He knowing stole and abused his position even when he was caught. What a peice of crap he is. His son's should be ashamed of what their father has done and the example he has set and THEY should have the respect to resign from their positions as well. I am sure none of the 3 of them could earn the kind of paycheck they have gotten accustomed to getting and the benefits they expect. FIRE THEM ALL. THE kids knew their father acted inappropriately and his behaviour was criminal. I don't know how they could have just taken those jobs knowing what was going on. They are just as guilty. This kind of arrogance is inexcusable.

By: glancaster on 5/20/11 at 5:50

I can't believe I have voted for this man each time he has run for office. How long has this been going on? Fire him, his sons, demand complete restitution for all years of inappropriate action, and take this sucker to court! Sociopaths have no consciences. Just waiting for the backlash from the criminals tried in his court.

By: treehugger7 on 5/20/11 at 6:25

Throw him out now, with the condition that he never be able to work for metro again! He might have to find real work. But who knows if he mishandled money as well? Investigate thoroughly, audit the department and throw him and his sons out, with the proviso that none of them may ever hold a metro or state government job again. I'm sure that is not legal, but what he did is not legal. How did this go on for so long?!

By: govskeptic on 5/20/11 at 6:25

When your only boss is the taxpayers expect bad behavior because of the
"I'm important and can do as I damn well please" syndrome that affect oh
so many of these folks. The funny part is after "Inheriting the job" himself, he now
wants to set up a dowry for one of his son to inherit same in next term!
Name recognition is way overrated, but it seems to outpace all other factors
in this state and city when voting day arrives!

By: treehugger7 on 5/20/11 at 6:25


By: govskeptic on 5/20/11 at 6:26

When your only boss is the taxpayers expect bad behavior because of the
"I'm important and can do as I damn well please" syndrome that affect oh
so many of these folks. The funny part is after "Inheriting the job" himself, he now
wants to set up a dowry for one of his son to inherit same in next term!
Name recognition is way overrated, but it seems to outpace all other factors
in this state and city when voting day arrives!

By: Moonglow1 on 5/20/11 at 6:45

Moonglow1: his behavior was criminal. He needs to be placed in the Davidson County Jail. With all the focus in this state on the budget why is this ridiculous discussion taking place. Fire him immediately. Charge him for misuse of his office and of his taxpayer funded job and put him in jail.

By: i.am.a.taxpayer on 5/20/11 at 7:06

That is rarely what we do with other thiefs. My employer expects a lot more than that from me. When I voted for him, I expected a lot more from Torrence. This is not just inefficiency; it is fraud and theft. If the DA's office is responsible, it will thoroughly investigate and act.

It is obvious that Torrence was not sorry that he did any of these things from what he said on television. His subsequent apologies were because he was sorry he got caught.

Haven't heard it mentioned, but the pictures of him going ot the liquor store and bank look very much like some that are not even in Davidson County.

Time to go. Show some dignity and move on.

By: d4deli on 5/20/11 at 7:22

It wouldn't be 40% reduction in his salary if you included the salary new hires should have gotten, instead of employing his twp son's in at the salary level earned by their predecessors. In the end, for Torrance to make FULL restitution, he would have to pay Metro to come to work 5 days a week, and buy his own gas.

By: P-Dude on 5/20/11 at 7:35

I don't think you can "fire" an elected official. He as to go, and he had to pay, no doubt. But it will not be simple to remove him from office. There is a recall provision in the Charter that has been used recently. I imagine the state could move to do something as well, but probably only after criminal charges were filed, tried and the man found guilty.

By: rolffz on 5/20/11 at 7:41

I totally agree with the very first comment:
"He wouldn't be doing this if he hadn't been caught. So just throw the bum out. Take away his benefits, too. He can get a real job and work like the rest of us."

If I did this where I am employed, I would no longer have a job, (no questions asked) and I would be forced to pay restitution for wages I collected. Makes you wonder how much work this person did when he even showed up.

This person holds a public office and rips off the public, in public and is now asking for forgiveness. He WOULD still be getting away with it if someone had not caught him. Give him the rope and then the boot. NOW! Stop wasting tax payer dollars on something the crook has admitted to already.

...and then theres the whole thing with hiring his kids!

By: Karen Hunter-Lowery on 5/20/11 at 8:10

Why did it take a TV investigative team to uncover this? He didn't work in an office of one - others in that office knew he only worked a few days a week. They knew no one else was interviewed for the jobs his sons got. It stands to reason that someone from the office likely called the news team that investigated - but after how many years?

How many other government offices are being run in a similar manner - with no one willing to be a whistle blower? Maybe other audits are in order.

By: girliegirl on 5/20/11 at 8:44

I'm with Karen

By: JustDotheRightThing on 5/20/11 at 9:30

This whole situation is very disturbing. This is a slap in the face to many hard working, underpaid Metro employees (and there are many out there). Through whatever measures necessary, he should be removed from office and required to pay or serve some type of restitution.

By: modern4life on 5/20/11 at 10:17

Give his job to the person who ratted him out. Then you will see a lot of other departments shape up in a hurry.

By: Lorenzo on 5/20/11 at 11:12

Torrence is the epitome of a Metro courthouse politician. Curious how the courthouse crowd will react to this situation with one of their little darlings and what pressures they will bring? If too much pressure is applied will Torrence seek a medical disability? Criminal charges for the criminal clerk with all loss of benefits is only the start for a fraud conviction. The real question is does the DA have the canjones to prosecute?

By: artsmart on 5/20/11 at 11:47

I have a better shot at winning the Lottery 4 weeks in a row than having the DA doing anything to Torrence. T Johnson is a prime example of how the good old boy system works. He will find any reason he can to do nothing at all.

By: Ellie G on 5/20/11 at 12:04

Why are people are upset about him working only three days a week? Have you looked at a calendar for how often congressmen actually "show up"?!

By: oldhickorytony on 5/20/11 at 3:10

Now... now... calm down... David's just been doing what his daddy before him did... he didn't know that what he was doing was wrong... and since David's never had a real job, he would be lost attempting to earn a real pay check...

By: mature44 on 5/20/11 at 9:10


How very benevolent of our lowly esteemed Criminal Court Clerk, David Torrence, to consider restitution for the money he has stolen from the taxpayers by his lazy work ethics, Thank you Mr. Torrence. If you're really contrite, how about considering resigning? I'm sure that you and your family have more than enough money from the State of Tennessee to continue to live quite comfortably the rest of your days. Maybe the best punishment is that the cover has been pulled off, and this despicable man, and his sons, have to live out the rest of their days being exposed for what they are. By the way, I'm not going to forget Mayor Dean's initial lack of response to this whole matter either.

By: wasaw on 5/21/11 at 9:09

Torrence is a politician, as are all those who are casting judgement on him. They will be tremendously forgiving, for they all know that the hammer might fall on them one day. Remember, nothing happened to Judge Robinson, when it was learned he was having lawyers sit in for him while he was running funerals out of his families funeral home.

Nothing happened to Judge Dumas when it was learned that she also had lawyers sit in for her while she was away playing. Nothings happened to her for violating the "NO NEPOTISM" rule when she hired her daughter to work for her.

Nothing happened to Judge Casey Moreland when it was learned that his court officer was cutting Moreland's grass, while on the pblis's dime.

Nothing will happen, folks, unless we demand it. If this had been learned after the on-coming election, I promise you NOTHING would happen.

The only reason that Torrence is owning up now is that he wants to pass the baton to his oldest son, who he just hired, at the pay rate earned by a retiring employee, This is how Torrence, himself, got the job. These local Dems think that taxpayers owe them, and their families, a living.

By: ichabodcrane on 5/25/11 at 5:03

As I've stated in previous posts, I'm an employee in the Criminal Court Clerk's office, and I feel that the absence of any type of action at all by Torry Johnson is nothing short of abominable. I'm one of the people on whose back David Torrence has become wealthy, all the while struggling to provide for my family because there "isn't any room in the budget" for me to ever get a raise. The fact that his two sons collectively make over $100k per year is enough to turn my stomach. The fact that even on the days that David Torrence does work, he comes in around nine-thirty or so and leaves around two or two-thirty (a fact that everyone who knows anything about the courthouse would be willing to attest to) is abhorrent. What I'm saying is that not only did David miss many days (and this has been going on for years), but most weeks he only worked around 15-20 hours. A little math would tell anyone that had he worked as many hours as he could over the course of three days, that number would be around 24. It's purely criminal that he's been able to get away with this for as long as he has. And there is talk in the Clerk's office that there will be budget cuts, probably around two or three people who will lose their jobs while the king on his throne and his two princes get to keep living the good life.

And I will reiterate this - the oldest son didn't replace a veteran employee and take over that employee's salary. That job, an IT administrative position, was created out of thin air and given to Josh Torrence at a salary of $55,000 per year. THE POSITION DID NOT EXIST BEFORE JOSH WAS HIRED. Josh has no college degree, or any type of IT certification which would qualify him to be an administrator of anything other than maybe his own wireless network at his house.

David spoke at the budget meeting about office morale and said that the morale in the office was great. And why would he think that? Because nobody has the balls to call him out and say "what you're doing is wrong and I want you to fix it". Nobody CAN say anything like that to him, because we're all fearful of losing our jobs. I, for one, couldn't say that, because I depend on the salary that I have to work very hard for (meager as it is, compared to the two princes). But maybe one of these days somebody will say something to him. Or maybe Torry Johnson will send him a message that he will never forget. Everyone in the clerk's office is being discriminated against because we don't have the Torrence name, and it's just wrong. If this was a private company that David started from the ground up, he could hire anyone he wanted for any job he chose at any salary he dictated. That's not the case here. He is a government employee and not allowed to show favoratism to any employee, family or not.

Torry Johnson, you're a straight-up coward if you don't do something about the injustices done to the employees and the citizens of Nashville. David is not facing re-election, due to the fact that this is his last term, but if you choose to run again, don't think for one minute that it won't come back and bite you at the polls should you sweep this under the rug.