County clerk 'prepared to take action' regarding Channel 5 story

Tuesday, July 5, 2011 at 7:01pm

Davidson County Clerk John Arriola issued a media release Tuesday, stating his concerns over an as-yet-to-air WTVF-Channel 5 investigative story on his office practices and suggesting he is prepared to take legal action if needed.

In the release, Arriola states that promotions for the story by investigative reporter Phil Williams have “veered off track in an attempt to attract viewers and increase ratings” by questioning Arriola’s practice of accepting a gratuity for marrying couples.

In the release, Arriola writes "should WTVF make unsubstantiated allegations against me or my office, I am prepared to take action to defend my honor, as well as my stewardship of this office."

At the same time, Arriola announced he would be reforming some of the office practices he said the news investigation addressed.

Arriola told The City Paper he decided to send out the media release Tuesday morning to “let everyone know … there’s nothing illegal about the marriage ceremonies that we perform in the office, and I think that’s clear in the attorney general’s information.”

The investigation appears to raise questions about the clerk’s practice of accepting money from couples who ask him to marry them. Arriola claims the money is an optional gratuity that he accepts for performing wedding ceremonies and points to a February state attorney general opinion that he said justifies the practice.

In an email to The City Paper Tuesday afternoon, WTVF-Channel 5 Station Manager Lyn Plantinga wrote: “In anticipation of a NewsChannel5 investigative series to begin tonight, Metro County Clerk, John Arriola has made significant reforms within the Davidson County Clerk’s office and, curiously, at the same time, questioned the validity of the forthcoming stories.”

Plantinga’s statement continued, “At NewsChannel5, our award-winning investigative team works to report matters of public importance and concern. We stand by the facts about the County Clerk’s office that will be shared in our story tonight at 10:00 p.m. Bringing these facts to light is in the best interest of the citizens of middle Tennessee.”

According to Arriola’s release, the story also raises questions regarding his use of a Metro-owned Chevrolet Tahoe, his hiring a public relations firm to publicize new services and office relocations, his hiring of a printing company to make signs for the clerk’s and spending $500 on shirts for staffers of the clerk’s office to wear to the Metro retirees Christmas party, something Arriola agreed “wasn’t a very good idea.”

Arriola also stated he would, however, immediately be implementing changes within the clerk’s office.

“While some of the policies and procedures in my office might be in need of modest changes and adjustments, which I am announcing today, I will not allow my office to be subjected to allegations that are rooted in misguided and sensational efforts to attract television viewers,” Arriola is quoted in Tuesday morning’s release.

The developments come on the heels of a libel lawsuit filed by General Sessions Court Judge Daniel Eisenstein against the station last week for stories regarding him and the Mental Health Court he oversees.


6 Comments on this post:

By: Bellevue on 7/5/11 at 7:06

I will readily admit that I am somewhat split down the middle on these Channel 5 "investigative" reports.

Is taxpayer money always utilized in the best interests of the citizens who pay it? No.

Do media outlets cleverly haze actual facts with distorted innuendos? You better believe it.

The main irritant I have is that the electronic and print media have a public forum to broadcast their opinions and views with John Q. Public afforded no real avenue for rebuttal.

What I would really like is for someone to dig into Phil Williams and Lyn Plantinga background to determine if they lead the pompous "holier than thou" lifestyle that they portray others to decry.


By: crappiefish on 7/5/11 at 7:54

Crappiefish: John, I hope you nail Phil Williams overbearing hide to the barn wall. He often over does his reports. I must also give him credit for doing a great job on some stories. Too many times he runs a story on a dedicated public servant such as yourself, when if there is a problem, it could be resolved during his first interview. He seems to be much more interested in an expose' than a correction of a minor problem.

By: thetruth2010 on 7/5/11 at 8:35

Why don't we wait to see what Phil's story uncovers rather that allowing Arriola to tell us what the story should or will be. Personally I trust Phil's reporting rather than some guy that stands to lose a 6-figure salary or even go to jail depending on what is found. And all of his friends that make a living off of taxpayers also have a lot to lose if this is serious enough.

He does seem to be protesting a little too much in my opinion. From the bit they showed at 6pm tonite Arriola really didn't have a coherent answer to the question, he seemed to be avoiding the question. Typical politician speak.

Seems like a bunch of elected officials want to run Phil out of town because he's one of the few keeping an eye on them. You going to wait until Metro does an audit to catch some abuse of power? You'll be waiting a long time then.

I wish the city paper would do some original reporting on this rather than just regurgitate whatever these elected officials tell them.

By: thetruth2010 on 7/5/11 at 8:46

"Bellevue" makes no sense in his comment. First of all, I believe that the story is on Arriola and from the previews he was given every opportunity to sit down and answer the questions. So what do you mean that there is no chance for rebuttal? And rebutting something that hasn't happened seems very strange.
Then you claim the reporter has a "holier than thou" attitude? Since when does asking tough questions of elected officials a bad thing? THese people are using our tax dollars to employ their friends, drive sweet rides, etc.? I for one want someone asking these questions even if it hurts someone's feelings? Asking Arriola budget questions isn't a personal attack, and if he feels that way he should hit the road and get a job in the private sector.

By: numenlumen on 7/7/11 at 3:19

What a scream. A politician squeeling like a pig when he gets accused of some petty impropriety. You're a public figure, fellow. Take it like a man.

When I read this fellow's name, it thought it meant, appropriately, a little pocket of hot air. I couldn't find that one in my dictionary. However, I found one much better, namely, areola: circular pigmented area, esp. that surrounding nipple.

By: T-BONE on 7/11/11 at 10:59

This is from the Clerks (ARRIOLA) METRO GOV WEB SITE…
•The fee for a marriage license is $99.50. However, license applicants who have completed a premarital preparation course within a year prior to the date of application for the license are exempted from paying $60.00 of this fee. The couple must provide a Certificate of Completion form (download and print Certificate of Completion here) that has been completed and signed by the course provider. (Course provider’s signature on the Certificate of Completion must be notarized).
fraudulent misrepresentation

Instance of false statement where (1) the party making the statement is aware that it is false or disregards the possibility of it being false, (2) the party making the statement does so to induce another party to enter into a contract, and (3) the other party enters the contract as a result of the statement and consequently suffers a loss.
.CALL TO ACTION!...If any readers out there were married by John Arriola and not informed that you did not have to pay this $40, but told that you had to, then you were duped! This is fraudulent and criminal! Please, please call The District Attorney General Victor S. (Torry) Johnson III and tell him to file criminal charges and give you back your money! (I'll bet Arriola did not give you a receipt). Don't worry...MAKE THAT CALL!
Office of the District Attorney General
Washington Square, Suite 500
222 2nd Avenue North
Nashville, TN 37201 - 1649
Office Hours: 8:00 a.m. to 4:45 p.m. M - F
Phone (615) 862-5500 | Fax (615) 862-5599