These emails, obtained under Tennessee's public records law, demonstrate how employees of the Davidson County Clerk's Office were used to boost the political standing of John Arriola and his allies.more>>
This collection of emails from Davidson County Clerk John Arriola's office, obtained under Tennessee's public records law, concerns various issues, including problems with employee attendance.more>>
By Phil Williams Chief Investigative Reporter
NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- NewsChannel 5 Investigates has uncovered even more evidence about how your tax dollars went to John Arriola and his political friends.
The proof is in those emails just obtained from the county clerk's office using Tennessee's public records law. They show Arriola's Metro staff and Metro computers being used to support the boss' politics.
"They talked about a lot of things, or put things in documents that may not be appropriate for the taxpayers to be funding," said NewsChannel 5 political analyst Pat Nolan, who reviewed some of those email messages.
Take, for example, that public relations contract funded for Arriola by Metro taxpayers through the Andrews Agency. Part of the plan, we discovered among the emails, was that the agency would work on a John Arriola fundraiser.
The emails also show one Metro employee drafting letters for state Rep. Sherry Jones and her campaign for a post in the House Democratic Caucus.
Then, Arriola himself directs another aide to handle details for a Democratic campaign event in the back part of the dining room of a restaurant owned by the county clerk.
"It's not that this kind of political stuff, to some degree, hasn't gone on for years, but it's generally not been conducted in email," Nolan said.
In the emails, Arriola also instructs his Metro staff to "reach out to older voters."
"Who's working on JA's next fundraiser?" one employee writes.
The Metro email show aides using Metro computers to compile "databases/lists" for Arriola's campaign, as well as drafting an invitation for an Arriola fundraiser.
On top of that, there's this email, described as being the office's "goals for the coming year." There's one category called "campaign." Listed there: references to a fundraiser, support for Democrat Sam Coleman's race for the State House and Metro Council races.
"It's not clear exactly what that's about," Nolan said, "but they are certainly not appropriate for Metro government tax dollars to be used to support those kinds of things."
Then, there's an email earlier this year from Arriola to aide Jonathan Saad, which contains language we can't show on TV, talking about Arriola's political future.
"I didn't hire you just to save you from the unemployment line," the county clerk writes. "I need a person who will see the big picture of the political realities of this countywide office and help me succeed."
Perhaps, looking forward to another political race, Arriola concludes prophetically, "Remember everything comes back on me, and the next two years will be critical."
Here's the clincher: State law makes it illegal for state officials to use their offices for political purposes, but that law doesn't apply to local officials. So it's not clear that any of this is against the law.
Other matters -- including money pocketed from weddings and questionable employees -- remains under criminal investigation by the TBI and state auditors.
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