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Tygard: Arriola Needs To 'Man Up,' Answer Questions

Updated: July 8, 2011 10:58 PM
Councilman Charlie Tygard wants answers that John Arriola refused to give when asked by NewsChannel 5 Investigates. Councilman Charlie Tygard wants answers that John Arriola refused to give when asked by NewsChannel 5 Investigates.
John Arriola John Arriola

By Phil Williams
Chief Investigative Reporter

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- A leading Metro Council member says the Davidson County clerk needs to "man up."

Councilman Charlie Tygard wants answers that John Arriola refused to give when asked by NewsChannel 5 Investigates.

Those questions involve thousands of dollars cash he pocketed while performing weddings on taxpayer time. At the same time, he also spent thousands of dollars of your money to promote his own name and face.

It comes as Nashville Mayor Karl Dean requested an audit of Arriola's office.

"Anytime questions of this nature are raised, the Metropolitan Government has an obligation to the taxpayers and citizens of Nashville to thoughtfully and carefully look into the issues," Dean wrote to Metro Internal Auditor Mark Swann.

The mayor asks for "a thorough review of all contracts and the procurement processes used by the County Clerk's Office" -- as well as what the mayor calls "the office's cash management procedures."
Related story: Mayor Requests Audit of Davidson County Clerk's Office

"I think this is almost worse than the Torrence situation," Tygard said, referring to the Davidson County Criminal Court clerk who has been forced to resign over questions about his work habits and use of a taxpayer vehicle.

Our NewsChannel 5 investigation revealed that Arriola's office had collected thousands of dollars cash from couples who came to the county clerk's office for wedding ceremonies performed by Arriola -- cash that Arriola admits he pocketed.

"I've performed a dozen or so marriage ceremonies," said Tygard, who as a Metro Council member can also perform marriage ceremonies.

"I've never accepted a dime for that. I just didn't feel comfortable profiting from that situation. If I am working on government time, then that money should be the government's."

Arriola insisted the cash payments he took were "gratuities," but he would not release his tax returns to show he reported the cash.

Tygard is now asking him to do just that.

"If I have to pay it, it's not a gratuity -- I mean, it's a fee. If that's going straight into it [his pockets] and it's not been reported to the IRS, then that's a crime. If it has been, then I think that's a poor judgment."

Then there are the thousands of dollars Arriola spent that promoted his name and face -- including an $800 studio portrait.

"We have a very capable Metro photographer that's available at a far less price and I would just say, 'Hey, why not use the professionals that we already have available to us?" Tygard added.

Add to that a public relations contract awarded to a company headed by a longtime Arriola friend.

Apparently, the money was awarded without going through any bidding process, although the county clerk refused to answer that question.

NC5 Investigates: "Was it a no-bid contract, John? It's a yes or no question."
Arriola: "It was a contract, it was an agreement that I had with this small minority firm."
NC5 Investigates: "With no bidding?"
Arriola: "And I made the decision."

"At some point, me or any government official has to man up to you," Tygard said. "If you are across from me and you ask an honest question, at some point I have to look you in the eye and give you a yes or no answer."

Tygard is asking Arriola to answer several questions about those weddings and those expenditures, saying the Metro Council will do "whatever needs to be done."

E-mail: pwilliams@newschannel5.com

County Clerk: 'I Call It A Gratuity'
Taxpayer-Funded PR Plan Aimed To Boost Arriola Image 
Read John Arriola's statement about our investigation

Related Stories:
NC5 Investigates: Davidson County Clerk

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