County Clerk John Arriola to resign, ending fee collection saga

Monday, June 25, 2012 at 10:02am
0625 Arriola mug.jpg
John Arriola

John Arriola, the embattled Davidson County Clerk whose practice of collecting fees to perform weddings put him under fire, has resigned.

Jonathan Saad, director of external operations at the county clerk’s office, confirmed to The City Paper Monday Arriola notified his staff earlier that morning of his resignation. “He thanked everybody for their wonderful work and the job they had done,” Saad said.

A brief resignation letter from Arriola was sent to Vice Mayor Diane Neighbors and the Metro Clerk’s Office. His resignation is effective June 29.

“To be honest, I think he’s just tired,” Saad said. “They’ve been beating him up, and beating him up, and beating him up.”

A message left on Arriola’s cell phone by The City Paper has gone unreturned.

Arriola’s resignation caps for the Democratic official an 11-month string of controversy that began when WTVF-NewsChannel5 aired a report last July that revealed the county clerk systematically collected $40 from couples he married. Arriola maintained the fees represented voluntary “gratuities.”

In January, a Tennessee Comptroller Office audit found Arriola had collected an estimated $119,400 in wedding ceremony fees. Over the period of time covered by the audit — between Sept. 1, 2006, and July 30, 2011 — auditors found Arriola performed approximately 2,985 marriage ceremonies and collected about $119,400.

The Metro Council voted 25-5, with seven abstentions, to approve a nonbinding memorializing resolution in February that called for Arriola’s resignation. Arriola remained defiant, staying in his seat for more than four months after the council’s action.

Councilman Robert Duvall, who sponsored the resolution that called for Arriola's resignation, said Monday he wishes Arriola's family the best and that he did the "right thing" by resigning. "Justice sometimes is slow," Duvall said of the months that passed until Arriola stepped down. "Maybe John had some soul-searching to do."

Spurring Arriola to resign may have been an ongoing investigation from District Attorney Torry Johnson, whose office has been in the process of reviewing the comptroller’s findings.

According to the state audit, “Marriage department employees were required to place the $40 cash in an envelope for the county clerk along with any other information the couple specifically requested for their vows. The envelopes were delivered personally to the county clerk.”

After Arriola’s resignation, though, Johnson said that there would be no prosecution.

“As an elected official, Mr. Arriola had a lot of discretion on how to run the office,” Johnson said. “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.”

More recently, the council in May voted to strip Arriola’s office of the ability to collect a range of tax revenue at the request of Metro Finance Director Rich Riebeling, who said Arriola had trouble turning over collections to the city in a timely matter.

Metro Council attorney Jon Cooper said the county clerk vacancy will be announced at next Tuesday's council meeting, July 3. From there, written nominations must be submitted to the Metro clerk's office by 4 p.m. on July 10.

The council's Rules-Confirmations-Public Elections Committee is tasked with interviewing candidates before the full council votes on a replacement at its Aug. 7 meeting.

AttachmentSize
ArriolaResignation.pdf72.68 KB

16 Comments on this post:

By: Kosh III on 6/25/12 at 10:45

What next? A new election? Will Council fill the vacancy? Nothing was said in the article.

By: Rasputin72 on 6/25/12 at 12:03

He was the best of my lifetime! He must have really got on the dark side of one of the slime people who dominate Davidson County politics. It could have been one of the curmudgeons from the Chamber of Commerce.

By: Lorenzo on 6/25/12 at 12:16

So he takes the money, pension, and lifetime medical and runs always. No charges filed. Such a deal. No wonder the politicians are the way they are. Become wealthy on the taxpayer dole.

By: jobuh on 6/25/12 at 12:47

Great... who's going to pay or each and every one of the personalized "Arriola" building and office signs that this dolt had made? The legislature should also make sure that no future CC's do that.

By: slacker on 6/25/12 at 12:59

With all that marrying experience, he can now become a tv preacher. That also pays well.

By: govskeptic on 6/25/12 at 1:00

About time and several months of checks later. Looks like AG Tory Johnson has
worked out another deal so no one gets hurt-Again. These type case resolutions
only give cover for others thinking or attempting to fraud Tenn taxpayers!

By: pswindle on 6/25/12 at 5:39

Well, they have won again. Whose toes did he step on?

By: dargent7 on 6/26/12 at 6:53

Guy pockets $114,000 in "tips", and I bet didn't declare it on his tax return.
Yet, "walks away". Pure garbage. The rest of us would have charges filed by the DA, an IRS tax lein, and face jail time.

By: govskeptic on 6/26/12 at 7:07

Watching Tory Johnson speak of this on TV last night was classic!
His contempt for what the public thinks was on display when a reporter
ask if the average citizen was accusing or charged with taking much
less? He pointed out that Mr. Arriola was voluntarily giving up a $115,000
dollar a year job. Big deal, with the TBI Director standing next to Tory,
it was obvious a resign or be indicted and we'll call thing quits on these
accusations. Has Mr. Johnson ever had an opponent for that office?

By: budlight on 6/26/12 at 7:22

new
By: Kosh III on 6/25/12 at 10:45
What next? A new election? Will Council fill the vacancy? Nothing was said in the article.

Kosh, the article says:
"Metro Council attorney Jon Cooper said the county clerk vacancy will be announced at next Tuesday's council meeting, July 3. From there, written nominations must be submitted to the Metro clerk's office by 4 p.m. on July 10. The council's Rules-Confirmations-Public Elections Committee is tasked with interviewing candidates before the full council votes on a replacement at its Aug. 7 meeting."

So I guess there will be nominations and then the council will interview the candidates and vote in August. Want me to nominate you? You'd be honest, at least!

By: slacker on 6/26/12 at 7:27

As I recall when Arriola was first exposed. He had a ghost employee ''friend on the payroll. The friend received a salary, but never reported to work. No mention of this.

By: govskeptic on 6/26/12 at 7:51

Slacker: you're exactly right about that, turns out there were two employees
drawing pretty sizeable amounts with very sketchy work history or records.
My suspicion is that's the biggest part of the TBI investigations that brought
about the: Resign or be indicted" agreement!

By: bfra on 6/26/12 at 3:04

Does he get to keep that BIG SUV bought with taxpayer's money?

By: parnell3rd on 6/26/12 at 11:05

Yep id it had been one of us, we'd be going to jail!

By: WayneR on 6/27/12 at 9:53

> The council's Rules-Confirmations-Public Elections Committee is tasked with interviewing candidates before the full council votes on a replacement at its Aug. 7 meeting."

Council-At-Large Charlie Tygard led the charge to oust John Arriola from office. Now Councilman Tygard is lobbying to have his fellow council people vote him into the Clerk's office. Mister ethics himself.

This is the same "Mr. Ethics" Charlie Tygard who funneled $10K dollars of taxpayer money to the Bellevue Exchange Club when he was, and still may be, the club treasurer?

To quote The Enclave:

> Here is the list of tax dollars to non-profit organizations that Mr. Tygard leveraged (all were approved by the Metro Council with no debate--with the exception to the Bellevue Exchange Club request, which was delayed for several months after Metro Finance learned that Mr. Tygard was an officer of the club--and signed by the Mayor):

$1,000 to the YMCA
$10,000 to the Bellevue Exchange Club

http://fwd4.me/0L7k

Just what we need to fill the Clerk's office after the recent history of David Torrence and John Arriola.

Mr. Ethics, indeed.

PhiberOptik

By: Shadow63 on 6/27/12 at 10:48

Ths guy should be in jail. If he worked at McDonald's an pocketed a big Mac tab, he would be prosecuted, but stealing thousands from the taxpayer is OK.
Oh, sorry, that is government policy.
We need the FEDs to look into the Metro government.