Clerk Gets Physical Over St. Patrick's Slot Machines - NewsChannel5.com | Nashville News, Weather & Sports

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Clerk Gets Physical Over St. Patrick's Slot Machines

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County Clerk John Arriola County Clerk John Arriola
Chief clerk Joey Workman Chief clerk Joey Workman

By Phil Williams
Chief Investigative Reporter

NASHVILLE, Tenn. - Everybody wants to share in the "luck of the Irish" on St Patrick's Day.

But, in a new twist on that concept, one Metro Nashville government official let his employees try their luck on slot machines.

And some of those employees were not too happy when NewsChannel 5 Investigates showed up.

It happened in the offices of County Clerk John Arriola.

"To try to show them that we appreciate them, just for that time, just for that day, just for that moment, just to be able to enjoy themselves on their time," Arriola told me.

"And they were playing for money?" I asked.

"What they are trying to do is..."

"You're not answering the question," I noted. "Are they playing for money?"

"Trying to relax. That's all they are trying to do is have a good time."

Arriola's employees are supposed to sell license plates and handle other business for Metro government.

But when NewsChannel 5 Investigates made a surprise visit -- behind the blue curtain, inside the employee break room -- we found Metro employees playing slot machines.

"So is this real money?" I asked one woman.

"No, no, no," she insisted. "You'd catch us right on the spot."

"So what's the point of putting in, are these tokens?"

"Yes."

"So what do you win?"

"I think if you get three sevens, you get like $5."

Remember, this is a Metro government break room -- a break room for employees doing the city's business.

"Are you on the clock right now?" I asked the woman.

"Yeah," she replied. "Well, I don't know. What time is it?"

That's when a man, whom we later learned was chief clerk Joey Workman, showed up.

"You need to get out of the break room?" Workman demanded.

I wanted to know, "Is Mr. Arriola here?"

"No, he's not. You need to get out of the break room."

"Can you call him and tell him that I'd like to speak with him?"

"I can, yes."

"OK, and I'll try my luck here," I said, gesturing toward the machine that the woman had been playing. "He [another worker] said this machine has coins. So I'll give it a little try."

Again, Workman demanded, "No, we need you out of the break room."

"Why?"

"'Cause I said so."

At this point, Workman had refused to identify himself as being anyone in authority.

Williams: "Who are you?"
Workman: "Let's go, Phil."
Williams: "Who are you?"
Workman: "Let's go."

That's when Workman grabbed me by the jacket and shoved me.

Workman: "Let's go."
Williams: "Don't get rough with me, sir."
Workman: "Let's go."
Williams: "This is public property."
Workman: "Get out."
Williams: "Please, do not touch me."

Then, as I turned to walk out, Workman shoved me from behind.

Williams: "Please, this is public property, sir."
Workman: "Go."
Williams: "Why are you afraid for taxpayers to see what's going on here?"
Workman: "You can get in our lobby. You can be out in front of the building. You can't come in the break room."
Williams: "Why is it you are afraid for taxpayers to see what's going on here?"
Workman: "I'm not afraid, but I don't need y'all in our break room."
Williams: "So why did you shove me?"
Workman: "'Cause I asked you to leave on several occasions and you didn't."

Outside the break room, Workman again pushed me.

"Please stop grabbing me," I said. "This is public property."

Later, when the county clerk John Arriola himself arrived, he was unapologetic.

"This is Saint Patrick's Day -- now what's wrong with that?" Arriola said.

"You're not answering the question," I noted. "Were they playing for money?"

"Why are you so uptight about Saint Patrick's Day?" Arriola said, skirting the question.

Williams: "Were they playing for money?"
Arriola: "I mean what kind of problem do you have on any holiday..."
Williams: "Were they playing for money?"
Arriola: "...that we try to make? Obviously, you have a problem."
Williams: "Were they playing for money?"
Arriola: "There are issues there that you just don't understand. I mean, you don't want to understand your own issues that you have."
Williams: "Were they playing for money, John?"
Arriola: "I don't know why you can't see what the holiday is all about."

Arriola refused to answer any of our questions and returned inside his office.

We did hear his chief clerk, Joey Workman, tell Arriola that the cash for the employees was apparently provided by someone from outside the office.

If that was done by someone who does business with the clerk's office, that could raise some potential legal or ethical issues.

E-mail: pwilliams@newschannel5.com

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