Council Delays Arriola Vote As Fireworks Fly - NewsChannel5.com | Nashville News, Weather & Sports

NC5 Investigates: Davidson County Clerk

Council Delays Arriola Vote As Fireworks Fly

Posted: Updated: Feb 7, 2012 09:55 PM

By Phil Williams
Chief Investigative Reporter

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Davidson County Clerk John Arriola may be under criminal investigation, but he had the votes Tuesday night to put off a Metro Council resolution calling for him to resign.

Still, there were some testy exchanges in the Council's Rules Committee that raised even more questions.

"Everyone makes mistakes in running an office," his defense lawyer, Bryan Lewis, told Council members. "If that was the touchstone for politicians, we wouldn't have any politicians."

Spectators, many of them Arriola's employees, packed the room as the county clerk's lawyer asked the Rules Committee to defer a vote until the District Attorney Torry Johnson decides whether to prosecute.

"We went to this same mat with David Torrence with much less information than what we have here, and we found that Mr. Torrence needed to go," the resolution's sponsor, Robert Duvall, insisted.

Duvall argued Arriola needs to resign over those fees he charged for weddings he performed on taxpayer time. A recently released state audit concluded the county clerk may have improperly raked in almost $120,000 over five years.

"If Torry Johnson comes out and indicts John Arriola, I'll be happy to vote for your resolution," said Council member Bo Mitchell.

In fact, Mitchell suggested Duvall himself might be forced to apologize if Johnson decides not to prosecute.

"I will not apologize for what is in the state comptroller's report that is on this document, and I don't know how much more we need to move," Duvall answered.

Mitchell jumped in, "It is not us to move. It is the district attorney."

"I disagree," Duvall interjected. "As the voice of the people, we should convey that voice."

But the most revealing moment may have come when Councilman Charlie Tygard asked if Arriola had paid taxes on those wedding fees -- before he was caught.

Arriola's lawyer insisted that he had reported the weddings fees on IRS tax returns, but he would not say when.

"I'm answering your question, Councilman Tygard -- I'm answering your question," Lewis said, as Tygard pressed. "Taxes have been paid, and he has no problems with the Internal Revenue Service."

"Were they amended?" Duvall asked.

"He has no problems with the Internal Revenue Service, and all taxes have been paid," the lawyer continued, refusing to answer the specific question.

One of John Arriola's supporters, Jason Holleman, also argued the Council ought to treat Arriola just like former Criminal Court Clerk David Torrence and wait for the DA to act.

So NewsChannel 5 Investigates did some fact-checking. It turns out, the Council voted last May to ask Torrence to resign -- two months before the DA did anything.

Duvall says he'll bring back his resolution in two weeks. At that time, the Rules Committee will not be able to stop it from being heard on the Council floor.

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