Image Credit: Office of the TN Comptroller
The Center Square [By Jon Styf] –
A Madison County commissioner was found to have collected more than $115,000 in fees from 1,970 marriages unlawfully, according to an investigation from the Tennessee Comptroller’s office.
The commissioner would charge a $60 fee for marriages even though commissioners “may not charge a fee or demand any other form of compensation.”
The commissioner was not named in the comptroller’s report and the case was sent to the district attorney of the 26th Judicial District.
“The Madison County Clerk must ensure his staff remain impartial when sharing a list of potential marriage officiants with members of the public,” said Comptroller Jason Mumpower. “I’m hopeful this investigation also serves to remind public officials about the state law prohibiting them from charging a fee for a public service unless it is expressly allowed by statute.”
During the investigation, Mumpower’s staff found that the commissioner would send a text message before the ceremony saying that “my gratuity is 60.00 cash.”
The investigation also showed that clerk’s office staff would give a list of commissioners with an application while circling the commissioner’s name, which was redacted in the investigation report, and informing that his fee was $60 cash.
“By setting a fixed price, he was clearly charging and requiring payment of a fee rather than accepting a gratuity in an unknown or undetermined amount,” the report said.
The investigation found that he had conducted 1,970 ceremonies over a six-year span while charging the fee, $50 the first two years and $60 since 2017.
The county clerk informed investigators that the unnamed commissioner performed 90% of the ceremonies in Madison County.
About the Author: Jon Styf, The Center Square Staff Reporter – Jon Styf is an award-winning editor and reporter who has worked in Illinois, Texas, Wisconsin, Florida and Michigan in local newsrooms over the past 20 years, working for Shaw Media, Hearst and several other companies. Follow Jon on Twitter @JonStyf.