Search Warrant Served in County Clerk Investigation
By Phil Williams
Chief Investigative Reporter
NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- There's evidence that the criminal case involving Davidson County Clerk John Arriola could be intensifying.
Authorities unsealed a search warrant Tuesday that was just served by an agent for the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation. It seeks evidence for a potential case not only against Arriola, but also his longtime campaign treasurer.
A Davidson County Criminal Court judge approved the search warrant after the TBI agent said that she was looking for evidence the treasurer may have been a "ghost employee."
The investigation was ordered following an exclusive NewsChannel 5 investigation into the Davidson County Clerk's Office.
The legal description on the search warrant says it all: State of Tennessee versus John Arriola and Leighton Bush. It was executed at the U.S. Community Credit Union in downtown Nashville, where agents were looking for transactions from Bush's accounts.
Bush is Arriola's longtime campaign treasurer whom, our investigation discovered, the County Clerk put on the Metro payroll right after his election five years ago.
"You're getting paid 20 hours a week and not having to turn in a time card?" NewsChannel 5 Investigates asked Bush back in July.
"Correct," he responded.
In fact, we found that Bush had been paid by the County Clerk's Office for 20 hours a week almost every week since late 2006 -- at the same time he was running an insurance company, as well as an Internet-based car dealership.
There was also no evidence that Bush had used his building security card for months.
"You don't have to turn in a time card?" we asked Bush.
"No, sir," he answered.
"And you don't keep any records?"
"I do not, no, sir."
In a sworn affidavit, TBI Agent Colleen Dean wrote that investigators had interviewed some 30 County Clerk's employees.
"The vast majority of employees stated that they never or rarely saw Bush, did not know what he does at the office, have never worked with him," Dean wrote.
As for the county clerk, the agent said he told investigators that Bush worked with him directly, essentially as a troubleshooter.
"I do not have documentation on what he does," Dean quotes Arriola as saying. "I did not make him punch a time card. Again, I trust my employees to be honest and to do their work."
Despite Bush's denials of any wrongdoing, the TBI agent wrote that she believed that, inside his bank accounts, investigators would find evidence that money had been stolen from taxpayers.
It is not known exactly what investigators found.
But the TBI agent wrote in her affidavit that she expected to find evidence that Bush was actually out of town during some of those weeks he was drawing a Metro paycheck.
Observers say the investigation could take several more weeks, although the search warrant certainly suggests that it's likely to be headed to a grand jury.
Investigators are also looking into money that Arriola pocketed for performing weddings on taxpayer time.
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