A Metro board will likely decide in October whether former Davidson County Criminal Clerk David Torrence, who retired following revelations of sporadic work habits, should receive a set annual pension of approximately $80,000.
The Metro Employee Benefit Board’s Pension Committee voted 2-2 Tuesday on a motion to extend Torrence his pension in full amount. By procedure, the action means the committee made no recommendation to the full 10-member employee benefit board on whether it should provide the former criminal clerk his due pension.
The board meets next on Oct. 4.
According to Metro Human Resources Department spokeswoman Robin Brown, the issue came before the board at the request of At-large Councilman Charlie Tygard, who emerged as one of Torrence’s leading critics after a WSMV-TV report showed the clerk’s hours on the job added up to three days week.
Amid controversy and a District Attorney’s Office investigation, Torrence resigned in July. The Metro Council appointed former Vice Mayor Howard Gentry as his replacement one month later.
“He readily admitted that he was guilty of not being in the office,” Tygard said of Torrence. “So under that theory, should that count against his pension? That’s the theory behind it.
“That’s up to them [the employee benefit board] to calculate,” Tygard said when asked of an appropriate pension reduction.
Brown said Torrence worked for 39 years as a Metro employee, first hired by the government in Dec. 1972. Later, Torrence would serve four four-year terms as the county’s elected criminal court clerk.
In calculating a former Metro employee’s pension, Brown said annual salary and years of service are considered. Torrence earned $125,000 per year when he resigned. Under the formula, she estimated Torrence’s pension would be $80,000. A Metro employee is currently eligible for a pension after five years of service.
“The initial question is: Does he get the full credit for his 39 years of service or not?” Brown said of the issue before the employee benefit board.
Attorney Jim Todd, hired as Torrence’s legal counsel after his resignation, said his client deserves his full pension.
“David Torrence worked for Metro government for 30-something years,” Todd said. “In my opinion, as a former prosecutor for 13 years and defense attorney, he ran an outstanding criminal court clerk’s office. It always ran smoothly, efficiently, and always made money for the county.
Todd added that the definition of “work,” in Torrence’s case, shouldn’t be based on the number of hours in the office. He alluded to the WSMV-TV story that showed the card-swipe records of Torrence’s entry in his government office.
“My point to the board today was, what’s the definition of work?” he said. “Is it time in the office? Do you want to set that precedent that, especially for elected officials, they need to be in their office all the time? Because in the age of laptop computers, Blackberry’s and cell phones, you can run an office and be pretty mobile.”
He offered an analogy.
“Steve Jobs at Apple probably doesn’t spend a whole of time in his office, but his stock continues to outperform expectations,” Todd said. “David Torrence probably didn’t spend a lot of time in his office, but he had a very well run office.”