In 2022, OpenTheBooks.com published about 20 reports on spending in Metropolitan Government of Nashville and Davidson County, holding officials accountable by collecting data through open records requests and publicly available information.
We reported on the $32 million in funds from the American Rescue Plan Act that Metro allocated to several housing projects, how Metro Nashville Public Schools’ employees can accrue an unlimited number of unused sick days, that Nashville Chief Public Defender Martesha Johnson owed almost $825 in unpaid parking tickets, but got a settlement to pay just $141, that Metro Nashville employees drove 722 government-paid-for vehicles in 2021, and more.
Here are just a few of the stories we reported about how Metro Nashville spends taxpayer dollars:
- Metro Nashville paid 9,411 retired employees $14.7 million per month in retirement checks, totaling $176.6 million in 2021. While the average monthly payout is $1,564, there are 319 retirees who get monthly checks of $4,000 or more. Many of the highest pensions go to retired firemen and police, including the top payout of $9,600 per month or $115,200 a year, for former Police Chief Michael “Steve” Anderson, whose final full-time salary was $225,529 in 2020.
Two hundred of those retirees are also collecting part-time paychecks from Metro Nashville. These so-called double-dippers are collecting up to $13 million from taxpayers — $5.8 million annually in pensions and another $7 million for part-time work. More than half of the double-dippers work for the Metro Nashville Police Department or Davidson County Sheriff’s Office, with others working for the Public Defender’s Office, the District Attorney’s Office, Water Services, Parks, Health and Finance departments, among others.
Metro officials say this arrangement of paying people twice saves the city money, by moving half the cost of salaries to the pension fund — which is performing well — saving the operating budget millions each year. Either way, it’s still taxpayer money and this arrangement may be spending more for a veteran employee who is probably paid more than a new hire would be. Some of the combined pay is very high – we see some people making over $100,000 between the two methods of pay.
- In the first half of 2022, Metro Nashville government spent $677,743 on paid administrative leave for hundreds of employees. Metro spent about $1.9 million each year in 2020 and 2021. Metro wouldn’t answer our questions on why people were on paid leave, whether for an investigation of an allegation of improper behavior or something more benign. We did find from our own research that there were some people who were placed on paid leave for alleged inappropriate workplace behavior. There were police officers who fired their guns, and after an investigation, it was determined that they acted properly and were reinstated.
The police department spent the most on paid administrative leave for the first half of 2022, paying 182 employees $198,120. That’s compared to $98,741 spent the entire year of 2021.
The Health Department spent the second most in the first half of 2022, paying 171 employees $107,440 for administrative leave, while it paid a whopping $627,757 for leave in 2021.
The Sheriff’s Department came in third highest, spending $82,286 on its 131 employees on leave. That’s compared to $230,646 for the entire year of 2021. Taxpayers have the right to know why they’re paying almost $2 million a year for administrative leave.
Metro government denied our public records request to get details on what Metro employees purchased.
There are 40 metro agencies that used credit cards in FY 2021, led by the sheriff ($196,497), police ($110,193), water services ($97,967) and parks and recreation ($97,944).
Across all agencies, Metro employees spent $30,318 on 16 hotels, from budget-friendly Country Inn and Suites ($545 spent by the Sheriff) and Red Roof Inns ($3,925 spent by Social Services) to the four-star Mirage Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas where the Human Resources department spent $1,989.
The local government employees spent $20,199 at more than 30 food establishments including Chick-Fil-A ($2,729), Dominos ($1,532), Jason’s Deli ($3,233), Jimmy John’s ($1,613) and Mission BBQ ($2,291).
Employees also did their fair share of grocery shopping at large chains, spending $7,970 at Kroger and $1,678 at Publix.
Other spending at big-box stores were in the tens-of-thousands, with $38,933 spent at Wal Mart, $27,348 at Best Buy, $22,333 at Sam’s Club and $23,131 at The Home Depot.
Other spending includes Dick’s Sporting Goods ($1,859), Target ($1,531), TJ Maxx ($555) and Sally Beauty ($707).
Once again taxpayers, have the right to know what is being purchased with the $1.2 million a year spent on credit card purchases.