NASHVILLE, Tenn. - Davidson County Clerk John Arriola submitted his resignation Monday after months of scandal surrounding his office and a lengthy criminal investigation.
Arriola's resignation -- effective the end of the day Friday -- comes as part of a deal with Davidson County prosecutors that will let him avoid state criminal charges. DA Torry Johnson said it will allow his office to avoid "protracted and costly litigation."
Still, Johnson said the Internal Revenue Service and federal prosecutors were not part the deal with the county clerk. The DA said he believes a federal investigation into Arriola's tax returns may be continuing.
""In our opinion, this is by far the most beneficial resolution of the matter for all the citizens of Nashville," Johnson told reporters during an afternoon news conference.
Longtime Arriola campaign treasurer Leighton Bush will also be required to resign his position in the County Clerk's Office.
Arriola broke the news of his impending resignation during a 7:30 a.m. staff meeting just before his office opened for business, although insiders say that the county clerk did not give a reason for his decision to resign.
The resignation effectively ends a probe by the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation and the state comptroller's office.
"As an elected official, Mr. Arriola had a lot of discretion on how to run the office," Johnson said in a news release. "The result of the TBI investigation and state audit found that while some of his actions and decisions may have indeed been questionable, or in violation of Metro policy, they weren't necessarily criminal in nature."
But Johnson acknowledged that -- if Arriola had not resigned -- his office had been prepared to ask a Davidson County grand jury to indict him for official misconduct for pocketing tens of thousands of dollars for wedding ceremonies that he and his staff performed on taxpayer time.
That audit report also contradicted Arriola's argument that the money was a gratuity.
It noted that "sworn statements provided to the auditors and TBI from personnel in the county clerk's marriage department disclosed the county clerk required, with rare exception, a $40 cash fee for the performance of a marriage ceremony. These personnel indicated they would assist individuals inquiring about a free marriage ceremony by giving them the general number to the county courthouse."
Johnson said the question of whether the moneys were gratuities or fees would have made prosecution potentially difficult.
"He's resigned, and that's all behind us as far as I'm concerned," the DA added. "That's more beneficial than anything that we would have ever gotten out of two years of litigation."
That audit also noted that "another employee advised the auditors that he received 40 hours a week pay while working only three days a week or less since he was attending college full time." Our investigation revealed that the college student lived in a house owned by Arriola.
In February, after the release of the state and Metro audits, the Metro Council voted 25-5 to call upon Arriola to resign -- a non-binding resolution that the clerk seemed to ignore.
More recently, the Dean administration had asked the Council to take away Arriola's authority to collect some $40 million in Metro taxes, saying that the office had become increasingly dysfunctional and had become slow in depositing that money into Metro accounts.
A multimillion-dollar contract for maintenance on state vehicles was supposed to save taxpayers' money. But "NewsChannel 5 Investigates" discovered some examples where you're actually paying more.more>>
A multimillion-dollar contract for maintenance on state vehicles was supposed to save taxpayers' money. But "NewsChannel 5 Investigates" discovered some examples where you're actually paying more. more>>