Court clerk hires sons for unadvertised jobs - WSMV News 4

Court clerk hires sons for unadvertised jobs

Updated: April 29, 2011

A top elected official in Nashville hired both his children for Metro jobs that were never advertised.

It's the latest revelation from the Channel 4 I-Team investigation into Davidson County Criminal Court Clerk David Torrence.

The I-Team's hidden camera showed Torrence away from the office several days a week, doing yard work, golfing or running personal errands with his Metro car. Torrence said he works only three days a week and doesn't deny being out of the office for half of last year.

Torrence didn't just hire his sons without advertising the openings; he hired them to replace veteran employees and paid his sons those veterans' salaries.

Within the past nine months, Joe and Josh Torrence were hired to work in the Criminal Court Clerk's Office. Their dad hired them.

Finley: "Did you advertise those positions?" asked I-Team Chief Investigative Reporter Jeremy Finley.

"No, I don't do that," Torrence said.

"So how did your sons know about it?" asked Finley.

"Well, they knew about it, well, they knew about it because I told them about it," said Torrence.

"Do you think there is anything questionable about a person in your position, hiring his own sons, for jobs that taxpayers pay for. Is there anything questionable about that to you?" asked Finley.

"No," Torrence said.

"Taxpayers hear about stories like this, but you think surely stuff like this doesn't go on. It does go on," said taxpayer advocate Ben Cunningham.

Because Torrence is an elected official, his employees in the clerk's office aren't bound by guidelines for civil service employees. You must advertise job openings for civil service employees and not show any favoritism.

But not in Torrence's office: Torrence can hire anyone he wants, even his own sons.

The city's legal department said there is no nepotism policy that applies to Torrence's department.

"Whether or not it breaks some nepotism policy is really beyond the point," said Cunningham. "The fact is he's thumbing his nose at the Metro taxpayers and saying, 'I'm going to do whatever I damn well please.'"

Torrence's sons got their jobs because two veteran Metro employees retired. Those veterans each earned their salaries after getting raises from the city over the course of 25 years on the job.

According to their personnel files, Torrence's sons came in at the veterans' salaries, despite being new to the department.

"I think there are people who would say those veteran employees had earned those salaries. And your sons just walked on in. You go to see how that looks a little questionable," Finley said. "You don't see that as questionable at all?"

"No," said Torrence.

In fact, Joe Torrence got about a $15,000 raise to switch from another Metro government job to his dad's office at a salary of $46,527.

Josh Torrence got an $18,000 raise to move from his old Metro job to his dad's to take the new job at $55,274.

Again, they were jobs that their dad gave to them without screening other candidates.

"What did you say? 'Guys, I think I have some good gigs here,' because they got pretty significant raises to come to this one," said Finley.

"Like I said, I'm glad to have them working for me," said Torrence.

Torrence said he hired his sons because they were qualified. Josh works as Torrence's IT administrator and has done IT work for Metro before.

Joe, who now works the front desk, worked for 10 years in Metro's warrant division.

"In your opinion, 'We're not going to advertise this for anyone else.' The very best employees were your two kids," said Finley.

"They're exceptional. They're exceptional," Torrence said.

"Is this good old boy politics? Classic good old boy politics? You hire your sons?" asked Finley.

"No, it's not good old boy politics. It really isn't. But like I said before, I am in my last term in office, and I'm glad to have my sons around me," said Torrence.

The I-Team wanted to speak to Josh and Joe for this story, but Torrence said he didn't want them to speak with the I-Team.

David Torrence knows a thing or about working for his dad as well. His father was once the Davidson County Criminal Court Clerk and hired him.

The only person Torrence has to answer to is taxpayers, and he said they re-elected him, so he's got to be doing something right.

The clerk's office is funded by the city's budget.

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