In my previous column, “Worship the Clerk,” I questioned why Americans fought to end their serfdom to feudal monarchs, only to turn around to bow and scrape to government clerks. After the article was published, alert readers informed me that I had only spotted the tip of an immense iceberg. It seems the Imperialists we euphemistically call “clerks” recognize no authority above themselves, and certainly not the public that pays them generous salaries in return for basic services.
While we commoners consider it more than fair to pay clerks more than $100,000 per year, followed by handsome pensions for just a few years of service, the clerks themselves thumb their imperious noses at the idea of doing an honest day’s work in return. Take, for instance, the curious case of David Torrence.
Torrence, the former Davidson County Criminal Court Clerk, averaged fewer than 20 hours per week over a period of 2.5 years. His “punishment”? He’s now in line to receive an $80,000 pension for life. Tyrants can ignore the law of the land and thumb their noses at commoners, while plundering the treasury. But we have a democracy where the will of the people is supposed to matter. How many Nashvillians would vote for Torrence to receive such a handsome pension for life, I wonder? And what sort of precedent would we set if Torrence receives $2.4 million over the next 30 years, after betraying the public trust? (Torrence regally offered to “reimburse” the city $15,000, but that’s a measly concession compared to the millions he stands to make at our expense.)
Davidson County Court Clerk John Arriola was recently discovered pocketing thousands of dollars per year in “tips” for marrying couples, while allowing them to believe the “tips” were government-mandated fees. If Arriola were a minimum-wage waiter, he might be entitled to voluntary tips. But he was already being paid $114,906 per year by taxpayers who had no reason to “tip” him. Arriola also hired his campaign treasurer and paid him for 20 hours work per week, without time cards or other physical evidence that any work was actually done. A clerk who makes more than $100,000 per year should be very good at accounting.
As I pointed out in my previous article, Davidson County “clerks” have been squandering taxpayer money for decades, because as soon as they get elected, they demand star billing. So they have new government forms and signs created, forcing commoners to see their regal personages announced whenever we register a vehicle or apply for a marriage license or birth certificate. For instance, according to the Nashville Scene, Arriola spent nearly $40,000 to replace “perfectly functional” signs with ones bearing his name, and to create a personalized logo. Why should taxpayers pay for clerks to put their names on marquees?
Surely it’s past time to end the imperial reigns of haughty government clerks and demand that they do their jobs in a reasonable manner — for reasonable pay.
Michael R. Burch is a Nashville-based editor and publisher of Holocaust poetry and other “things literary” at www.thehypertexts.com.