With the recent discovery of David Torrence’s three-day work week and John Arriola’s $40 “gratuity” for fulfilling part of his job’s duties, it is becoming increasingly apparent that Mayor Karl Dean needs to do a significant audit of Metro government departments and offices.
It’s hard to believe that former Criminal Court Clerk Torrence was able to work, on average, less than 20 hours a week for the last three years without anyone noticing. Not only was Torrence working less than a part-time employee, he used his government vehicle to run personal errands and hired his two sons for jobs within the clerk’s office without even posting the positions.
However, it gets even worse. Torrence admitted to buying wine and transporting it in his government vehicle, which is against Metro employee guidelines, and paid his sons the same salaries that the previous employees had made, instead of at the typical new employee salary.
Similarly, John Arriola’s practice of pocketing $40 for performing marriages went unchecked, possibly since he was elected Davidson County clerk in 2007. Like Torrence, Arriola used his position to secure a job at the clerk’s office for his campaign treasurer, Leighton Bush. And, once again, it gets worse. Bush has not kept records of his work hours since he began in 2007, but supposedly works 20 hours per week.
At a time when the struggling economy is forcing Nashville families to tighten their belts and make every penny count, Metro government should be doing the same. By reviewing spending in departments and offices throughout Metro government, Mayor Dean can find ways to use scarce tax dollars more efficiently. For example, with salaries of over $100,000 a year, the Criminal Court clerk and the Davison County clerk can afford to drive their own vehicle to work; they should not receive a government vehicle.
Similarly, preventing money from being spent unwisely is just as important. With increased oversight of Metro government spending, Torrence’s sons would have been paid at a new employee rate, saving Nashville taxpayers $33,000 in one year alone. This does not mean that a “big brother” Committee on Spending needs to be created and breathe down the necks of Metro employees. However, there does need to be increased oversight (or at the very least changes in oversight), and Metro employees need to be held accountable for their actions and spending.
Torrence and Arriola are not indicative of Metro government employees as a whole. As with anything, there are always going to be some bad apples in a bunch. Mayor Dean and individuals within Metro government have a responsibility to Nashville taxpayers to ensure that every tax dollar is being used responsibly. In other words, tax dollars should be used to provide necessary services to Nashville residents, not line the pockets of a few selfish and greedy individuals. In order to ensure this goal is met, an audit of many departments and offices within Metro must be completed and increased oversight must be established to ensure that situations like this never happen again.
Justin R. Hickerson