The mayor of Nashville, Megan Barry, finds herself in an odd spot given the endless stories coming forth on sexual harassment and abuse in the workplace. Most stories involve a wronged woman and an abusive male. In this case, the mayor is a liberal Democrat woman and her offense is an affair with a subordinate, Sgt. Robert Forrest Jr, the head of her security detail. Adding to the mix, there is taxpayer money involved.
Barry and Forrest are both married. Barry said the relationship was discovered during conversations between their spouses and private discussions.
Forrest, 58, was a regular presence with the mayor during public events, travel and even trips abroad. According to public records obtained by The Tennessean, thousands of taxpayer dollars covered Forrest’s travel with the mayor on city business.
While several of the trips included other members of the mayor’s office, nine of the trips were with only Barry and Forrest, including a trip to Greece in September.
When the story broke at the end of January, she went on the offense and immediately began with what most politicians don’t do – she admitted the story is true and asked for forgiveness while pledging to win back the support of her constituents. (The Tennessean)
“We had an affair, and it was wrong, and we shouldn’t have done it,” Barry, a Democrat, said, looking down as she spoke softly and slowly. “He was part of my security detail, and as part of that responsibility, I should have gone to the (police) chief, and I should have said what was going on, and that was a mistake.
“People that we admire can also be flawed humans, and I’m flawed, and I’m incredibly sad and sorry for the disappointment that I will see in those little girls’ faces. But, what I hope they can also see is that people make mistakes, and you move on from those.”
She gave a press conference. Her husband, a professor at Vanderbilt University, was in the room but not on stage with her. She claims the affair is over. She took to Twitter to ask for forgiveness, too.
God will forgive me, but the people of Nashville don’t have to. In the weeks and months to come, I will work hard to earn your forgiveness and earn back your trust. https://t.co/z5tNpBhjrW
— Megan Barry (@MayorMeganBarry) January 31, 2018
She’s still in office, as of this writing, and insists she will not resign. Sgt. Forrest retired in January. She’s a liberal darling and appears to be given extra leeway in her ethical breach, although some are now coming forward demanding she resign. She’s also a sympathetic figure. Her only child, her son Max, died of a drug overdose in 2017.
This affair shows a real lack of judgment, though, as it began just months after she took office. There are legitimate questions as to if the trips taken together were legit or just opportunities taken to get away together. (The Tennessean)
Barry rejected any suggestion that taxpayer money was used to advance her affair. But she never flatly denied that she engaged in the relationship during those trips.
“Those trips were all business related, and those trips he traveled with me as my detail, which is standard policy with the police department to have detail with me wherever I am,” Barry said.
“It was all city business, and the police policy for detail and my busy schedule are what you’re seeing reflecting in those trips,” she said.
Asked whether Forrest’s presence was necessary on the trips, Barry said the police department recommended it.
In addition to his more than $84,500 annual salary, Forrest earned more than $50,000 in overtime pay during 2017, according to data obtained by The Tennessean.
That is a tidy amount of overtime pay. Not to mention the swell travel. (The Tennessean)
Last year Forrest traveled with Barry overseas to Paris and Athens. He also accompanied her on trips to cities across the U.S., including to Washington, D.C.; New York; Denver; Oakland, Calif.; Salt Lake City; and Kansas City in the last 10 months alone.
The trip to Greece took place Sept. 12-18. It was for the Athens Democracy Forum as part of Nashville’s involvement in the 100 Resilient Cities network led by the Rockefeller Foundation.
According to travel records obtained by The Tennessean, the bill for Forrest’s trips between January 2017 and October 2017 was $21,712. Barry’s travel expenses between Jan. 1, 2017, and this year totaled $11,382.
The irony in this story, too, is the ethical bona fides the two claim. Barry was ethics and compliance officer at Premier Ethics and Compliance. Forrest signed an ethics agreement to keep his private life as “an example to all” and pledged not to discredit the agency. Oops.
Forrest offered no other explanation. In 2000, he signed a law enforcement code of ethics stating, “I will keep my private life unsullied as an example to all and will behave in a manner that does not bring discredit to me or to my agency.”
Statement on Mayor Megan Barry's travel: https://t.co/s5iMV2MQnF
— Megan Barry (@MayorMeganBarry) February 5, 2018