Davidson County Clerk John Arriola would like to forget this past Wednesday.
The fire that struck Norman Couser’s Country Kitchen — his Nolensville Pike eatery — would have been bad enough.
But then the state comptroller had to go and release an audit of the clerk’s office.
Justin Wilson couldn’t wait just one more day before sending out the report, sprinkled liberally with words like “improperly” and “deficiencies” and “violated”?
According to the 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.”
In June 2011, Arriola told employees to refer to the $40 payments as gratuities instead of fees. Over the period of time covered by the audit — between Sept. 1, 2006, and July 30, 2011 — auditors estimated that Arriola performed about 2,985 marriage ceremonies and collected about $119,400.
The comptroller’s recommendation was that Arriola shouldn’t require a $40 fee in addition to the required taxes and license fees, but that he could “accept, request, or solicit gratuities.”
The comptroller goes on, finding several deficiencies in the clerk’s office, such as improper reporting and disbursing computer fees to the county trustee’s office; issues over payroll administration; a part-time employee who received full-time benefits; and management conducting “campaign activities” in the office during business hours.
Arriola responded to each of these allegations, though frequently the tone of those responses seemed the legalistic equivalent of “Nuh-uh!”
And, not to pile on, as obviously Arriola was having a tough day, but there’s no such thing as “antidotal hearsay,” unless the clerk was suggesting the alleged hearsay would prove a panacea to his woes.
This investigation was prompted by an investigation by no-longer-mustached gadfly Phil Williams of Channel 5. If anybody was as upset as Arriola by the audit release, it had to be Williams: the comptroller put out the report a full two weeks before February sweeps.