Arriola Puts Campaign Treasurer On Metro Payroll - | Nashville News, Weather & Sports

NC5 Investigates: Davidson County Clerk

Arriola Puts Campaign Treasurer On Metro Payroll

Updated: July 15, 2011 08:15 AM
Leighton Bush Leighton Bush
Leighton Bush and John Arriola Leighton Bush and John Arriola
Amount paid to Leighton Bush since 2006 Amount paid to Leighton Bush since 2006

By Phil Williams
Chief Investigative Reporter

NASHVILLE, Tenn. - An exclusive NewsChannel 5 investigation discovered that, right after Davidson County Clerk John Arriola got elected, he put his campaign treasurer on the Metro payroll.

But Leighton Bush, who runs two businesses, admits he has not had to document any of the hours that he has worked.

"You're getting paid 20 hours a week and not having to turn in a time card?" NewsChannel 5 Investigates asked Bush.

"Correct," he answered.

Arriola released a statement Thursday afternoon, admitting "I was wrong not to have him keep records of his time worked in the past as it has created an appearance of impropriety where none existed."

This follows earlier reports by NewsChannel 5 Investigates that the county clerk pocketed cash for performing wedding ceremonies on taxpayer time, awarded no-bid contracts and used tax dollars to promote his own name and face, and had Metro provide him with a $33,000 Tahoe.

Ever since Arriola's election five years ago, payroll records show Leighton Bush has routinely been paid for 40 hours work every two weeks. At almost $500 a paycheck, that's more than $60,000 that he has been paid since the fall of 2006.

"I'm in charge of going to different meetings in the community, chambers, things like that," Bush said. 

Asked if he puts "in the same number of hours every single week," he answered, "Just about, yes, sir."

But Bush is a busy man. He owns Bush Insurance out in the Cool Springs area and lobbies Tennessee's Capitol Hill for the insurance industry. In 2009, he was named Tennessee insurance agent of the year. In 2010, he wrote a column saying he was working insurance not just days, but also "nights and weekends."

Add to that he also runs an Internet-based auto dealership out of an office in Wilson County -- all while collecting a paycheck from Arriola's office.

Bush: "It ends up averaging being about 15 or 20 hours a week every week, having to be at everything I have to be at."
NC5 Investigates: "But you don't have to turn in a time card?"
Bush: "No, sir."
NC5 Investigates: "And you don't keep any records?"
Bush: "I do not, no, sir."

But security access records obtained from the complex where the county clerk's office is located indicate that Bush has not driven into the employee parking garage even once in the last seven months.

Nor has he swiped into the secured, employees-only areas of Arriola's office -- not even the ones leading to and from the employee break room.

"That's because I don't have to swipe in. I just park out front and go right in," Bush insisted.

NC5 Investigates: "And you don't have to go through any secure doors at all?"
Bush: "No, sir."

Arriola said he was not surprised since "most of Mr. Bush's responsibilities are outside the office."

In fact, payroll records show Bush has been paid for same number of hours during holidays, summers and weeks when he had out-of-state business for his insurance company.

NC5 Investigates: "You work 20 hours a week during Thanksgiving?"
Bush: "I don't think Thanksgiving, no, sir."
NC5 Investigates: "You've been paid during the Thanksgiving period."

Metro's deputy finance director, Talia Lomax-Odneal, says her office also had questions about a payroll submitted by Arriola's office just before Christmas, paying out more than $50,000 in overtime for full-time workers and pay for part-time workers.

Some employees raked in as much as 33 hours overtime.

An accompanying email from one of Arriola's top aides first claimed it was all for one weekend. "Many employees stayed late Friday, worked on Saturday, and some came in on Sunday."

"It's fair to say that red flags were there that made me ask questions," Lomax-Odneal said. "It just seems it would hard to get those 30+ hours over a three- or even four-day work period."

Later, that aide said some also worked Thursday night.

But swipe records show that while several did indeed work that Saturday, only one person from the county clerk's office actually swiped into the building on that Sunday.

Still, finance officials say Arriola's office refused to meet to discuss that payroll.

As for Leighton Bush, when we caught up with him Tuesday -- not at the clerk's office, but at an auto auction in Mt. Juliet -- Bush had trouble telling us what he had done to earn your money just this week.

NC5 Investigates: "You don't remember which meetings you've done for Metro taxpayers."
Bush: "I would have to stop and think, actually, Phil. You can't just..."
NC5 Investigates: "I've got time."
Bush: "I know you, but I don't unfortunately. I have somewhere else that I'm on my way to, is why I'm leaving now."

That's what he did, leaving behind plenty of questions about how such a busy insurance agent and car dealer has time to earn the Metro paycheck approved by his friend, the county clerk.

Bush does not even list his job with the clerk's office on his professional profile on the Internet, but Arriola's statement claims those other business are just "part-time."

While insisting that Bush has plenty to do for the county clerk's office, Arriola admitted he needs to do a better job of documenting that work.

"Going forward, I have asked Mr. Bush to keep records of his hours worked and to submit a timesheet for payroll purposes. No matter how many hours he works, he will still be capped at 20."


Related Stories:
NC5 Investigates: Davidson County Clerk

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