Court Clerk Behind On Disclosing Budget - WSMV News 4

Court Clerk Behind On Disclosing Budget

Updated: May 10, 2011

The Channel 4 I-Team has uncovered that for nearly two years, Criminal Court clerk David Torrence hasn't been providing the city information about how he's spending the public's tax dollars. He's required to do so by city ordinance.



It comes as a Metro committee voted Tuesday night to authorize a complete audit of Torrence's office in light of the I-Team's investigation that found Torrence out of the office half of last year, admitting he only works three days a week and hired his sons for jobs in his office without advertising them.


Nearly every month, every Metro office is supposed to provide the city's finance division a detailed budget of how the public's tax dollars are being spent. It's then shared with the Metro Council. That way, each office faces a degree of scrutiny from the council about how money is being spent.


But Torrence's office hasn't been doing that since 2009.


When the I-Team's undercover cameras caught Torrence not at the office during the work week, instead cleaning up his yard and running errands in a county-issued car, it turned out there was something else he wasn't doing at the office.


"They are required to do it, and they're not doing it," said Metro Finance Director Rich Riebeling.


An ongoing I-Team investigation found while office after office within the city provides spending reports each month, the Criminal Court clerk's office hasn't -- not once this year, not once last year and only twice in 2009, despite the city's finance office repeatedly asking for those reports.


Torrence has a budget of more than $3 million, and because he's an elected official, he has more discretion over how that money is spent compared to other department heads in the city. The reports are the only way for the City Council to know how Torrence is spending the public's money.


The I-Team took its findings to Councilman Ronnie Stein, who successfully convinced the city's audit committee Tuesday to launch a new audit of Torrence's office.


"I do think it's of concern," Stein said, especially given what the I-Team exposed and Torrence admitted to.


"You only worked about 50 percent of the time. Only 50 percent of the time you were in this office. How do you explain that?" asked I-Team chief investigative reporter Jeremy Finley.


"It is what it is," Torrence said.


"Clearly, by the admission of the clerk, he's not there as often as all of us think he ought to be," said Stein.


Torrence did not return the I-Team's request for comment Tuesday.


All of the Metro departments are scheduled to go before the Metro Council next week to explain their budgets.


The city's finance director said he really can't force Torrence to release the reports. This is uncharted territory for many because Torrence is an elected official and this raises questions of who within the city has authority to require Torrence to do anything.


The Finance Department knows how much Torrence's office spends, and it has been under budget, but the Finance Department doesn't know how he's spending the money.

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