Image: Davidson County Criminal Court Clerk Howard Gentry Image Credit: ccc.nashville.gov
The Tennessee Conservative Staff –
Davidson County Criminal Court Clerk Howard Gentry recently opted to avoid posting an open position in his department and instead filled the spot with his own family member.
Gentry made a decision to hire someone to work part-time doing social media outreach related to expungements in Davidson County. Instead of advertising the job and taking applications, he handed the job to his 23-year-old daughter Taylor Gentry.
Although she did not have to submit an application, Taylor Gentry did send in a resume. She is a graduate of Dillard University in New Orleans where she studied Public Policy and Urban Studies. Her work experience consists of volunteer work and working for political campaigns, including some work in social media.
According to Gentry, he did not create a job using taxpayer funds specifically for his daughter. He says the position was already there and was available.
“She was, what I thought, ideal for it,” Gentry said to WSMV4 Investigates.
When asked, “If nobody else applied, how do you know she was the best applicant?”
Gentry said, “She was the best for what I needed.”
The city database shows that Taylor Gentry receives a salary of $64,000, although Gentry says that is not accurate because she only works part time and is only making between $20,000 and $30,000.
WSMV4 Investigates also discovered that Gentry is not the only elected official who is hiring family members to work for them.
County Clerk Brenda Wynn hired her grandson Damien Wynn, as well as her granddaughter and niece, with paid internships. Only her grandson is still a current employee.
After the paid internship, Damien Wynn remained employed in the office, making more than $42,000 a year.
Wynn says that her grandson was trained during the internship and then there was “turnover in the office.” She said her staff asked if he would stay full-time and she left that up to him.
According to Wynn, everyone who applied for a paid internship received one within a year, and she still has positions she cannot fill.
“I need bodies in seats.”
Government Ethics expert William Hall, professor of political science at Webster University, says hiring family is a bad idea.
“It looks bad when you’re dealing with the taxpayers’ money. If there’s a hint of impropriety, that’s bad. And I don’t think it’s necessary,” Hall stated.
When asked how he thought taxpayers would react to finding out he hired his daughter, Gentry said, “I don’t know…I’m not the first person to have done this.”
Gentry’s predecessor David Torrence also hired his two sons to work in his office and was investigated back in 2011. He resigned after the then-district attorney threatened to remove him from office.
AJ DePriest of Tennessee Liberty Network said, “We shouldn’t expect much out of Nashville. But, COME ON. Gentry’s excuse for his unethical behavior? ‘I’m not the first person to have done this.’ Yeah. And he won’t be the last. Have you had enough yet?”
Gentry and Wynn are both elected officials who do not have to obtain anyone’s approval for new hires.
Gentry claims the job is only temporary for his daughter who will be attending graduate school and that he has plans to hire someone permanently for the job in the future.