Torrence matter spurs legislation addressing vehicle use, salary

Thursday, June 2, 2011 at 5:32pm

Revelations of embattled Criminal Court Clerk David Torrence’s work habits have spurred At-large Councilman Charlie Tygard and others to introduce two new pieces of legislation, one clarifying uses of government vehicles, the other rolling back the clerk’s salary.

The District Attorney’s Office has already launched an investigation into Torrence’s actions following a WSMV-TV report that revealed he had been working only three days a week and using a government vehicle to run personal errands, which included at least one trip to a wine and spirits store.

As Nashvillians await the outcome of the DA’s probe — and whether the clerk’s behavior warrants the filing of a seldom-used ouster suit — the Metro Council will consider two Torrence-inspired bills.

Both are set to go before the council next week.

One ordinance, requiring three separate votes, would require government vehicles — which are provided to all Davidson County constitutional officers — to be used solely for official business. Unauthorized uses would include traveling outside Metro’s boundaries without administrative approval, using the vehicle for personal reasons and transporting alcoholic beverages.

Tygard, who is running for re-election and has become one of Torrence’s most vocal critics, said Metro officials are currently “discouraged” from using government vehicles from transporting alcoholic beverages, but are not prohibited by law.

“It’s time, based on the Torrence situation, that if you’re going to do that kind of stuff, you do it in your own personal vehicle,” Tygard said.

In addition, Tygard and At-large Councilman Ronnie Steine have filed a separate resolution to revoke a 10 percent raise that was added to Torrence’s salary through a law enacted in 2006 that compensated clerks, who like Torrence serve multiple courts.

Torrence currently earns $125,000 annually.

“Under the light of the current circumstances, we don’t think we should be rewarding folks if they’re not working,” Tygard said. “So, we’re rolling it back to the state-prescribed one-court level.”