One of the highest-paid elected officials in Nashville has a six-figure salary, works about half the year, has a county car for personal errands and golfs and works in the yard during the workweek, a Channel 4 I-Team investigation found.
The I-Team's hidden camera found a top official doing these things, and he seems to have no problem with any of it.
David Torrence is the Davidson County Criminal Court clerk. Taxpayers pay him $125,000 a year.
On April 6, while Torrence's employees at the clerk's office were working, the I-Team found him at home picking up sticks and spraying his yard for bugs.
At about 2 p.m., he walked outside in shorts and a ball cap to get the mail.
It wasn't a personal day, holiday or sick day; it's just a typical Wednesday in Torrence's working world.
On April 8, he never went to the office. He spent part of the day using his county car instead of his personal Corvette to run errands. From his home, he drove to a bank then to a liquor store. He got back in the car and headed home.
What is that work pattern? The I-Team spent months investigating how often the clerk works.
Torrence doesn't keep time sheets, but security swipes at the only city garage where he parks show that last year, Torrence wasn't there on 95 regular workdays, not including weekends or five weeks of vacation.
As the criminal court clerk, his only duties lie in the office, keeping the criminal courts operating. But the garage card swipes show he wasn't in the office for about half of 2010.
"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.
Torrence said he takes Wednesdays and Fridays off every week.
"I'm working Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays," said Torrence.
"I don't think that's acceptable to a lot of taxpayers. I don't think they're going to sit there and say, 'Mr. Torrence, I think it's OK for you to take off half of the year when we pay you this salary, and it's that important of a job,'" Finley said.
"Well, Jeremy, if it's, I don't know, you're telling me that's what the garage shows," said Torrence.
"The number of times you came to work," said Finley.
"Well, alright," Torrence said.
Torrence said he follows the car in front of him into the garage and doesn't have to swipe, so there's no record of him coming to work.
"Because you're going behind someone all the time," said Finley.
"No, I'm not saying that. It happens sometimes," Torrence said.
But overall, Torrence said he doesn't deny what the I-Team found. He justified his schedule by noting the clerk's office is efficient, innovative and well run.
"I have to ask: If the job gets done, why pay someone, like, that big of a salary to work three days a week?" asked Finley.
"That's what the job pays," said Torrence.
Some work weeks, he didn't work only three days; he worked two days during full work weeks. In fact, the I-Team found 18 work weeks during which Torrence only worked two days.
The I-Team totaled it and found that Torrence took 52 three-day weekends over two years, not counting vacations.
"Do you know how many, many Metro employees would kill to have two-, three-day weekends? In that time period, you have 52. That seems like a lot," said Finley. "Does that seem like a lot to you? You're shaking your head, indicating no."
"You know, it is what it is," said Torrence.
Torrence isn't just running errands and working in the yard during the work week.
"I occasionally play golf," he said.
"On the days when the taxpayers pay you to be doing this job, you openly admit you're golfing, you're working in the yard. You don't have a problem with that?" asked Finley.
"Like I said, I'm in the office Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays. And those are the days I'm here," Torrence said.
As for using the county car for running errands, Torrence said, "I go to the bank and pick up my wife and a couple bottles of wine and come home."
"Do you think that's what the car is supposed to be used for?" Finley asked.
"I don't think that there's anything wrong at all to do that," Torrence said.
But it turns out there is something wrong, according to Metro guidelines. The city said alcoholic beverages of any kind can't be transported in a Metro vehicle.
But here's what Torrence said he can and will keep doing.
"Do you plan on working more?" asked Finley. "Do you plan on being in the office more after this?"
"There's nothing I regret. And I'm going to keep that same schedule -- Monday, Tuesday and Thursday -- just like I have," said Torrence.
"Do you think you would have been reelected if people had known what we just brought to you? That you had only been in the office half of the year? Do you think you would have been reelected?" asked Finley.
"I've now been elected to my fifth term, so I must be doing something right," said Torrence.
He pointed out that he is on call all the time, but he said he has never been called in to work since he's been clerk.
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