Nashville's progressive mayor resigns after pleading guilty to felony connected to an affair

Nashville Mayor Megan Barry resigned today after pleading guilty to theft of public funds. The theft was connected to an affair she admitted to with the leader of her security detail. From the Tennessean:

Nashville Mayor Megan Barry pleaded guilty Tuesday to felony theft of property over $10,000 related to her affair with former police bodyguard Sgt. Rob Forrest.

She agreed to reimburse the city $11,000 in restitution, and serve three years probation.

“Thank you judge,” Barry, appearing in a black dress, said after entering the plea. “I appreciate you.”

Taking the unusual step of appearing himself in court, instead of assigning a deputy, District Attorney Glenn Funk said that “had this case gone to trial, witnesses are available who would testify that in March 2016 and January 2018 Megan Barry caused over 10K but less than 60K in Metro Nashville city funds to be expended unlawfully on Mr. Robert Forrest.”

Barry and Forrest made 10 trips together with no one else from the Mayor’s office in attendance. Those trips included visits to Paris and Washington, DC. Barry admitted to the affair in an interview last month, saying she regretted it and asking for forgiveness from Nashville voters.

Despite the frank admission, Barry claimed the affair took place on her private time and did not involve any official time on her part or that of Sgt. Forrest. However, investigators with the Tennessee Bureau of Investigations searched Forrest’s phone and found photos of a nude woman (presumably Barry) taken during work hours. The existence of those photos, which Barry claims were taken without her knowledge, were revealed in an application for a warrant to gain access to Barry’s phone.

Prior to the affair, Barry was considered a rising progressive star in Nashville where she had approval ratings around 70 percent. She was considered someone who could move on to Congress or the Senate in the future. Prior to her run for Mayor, Nashville Scene described her home as a kind of salon for Nashville progressives:

Barry’s reputation as a local progressive stems in part from the company she keeps. Her home, just blocks from Belmont University and Hillsboro Village, has long served as the site of semi-regular salons for a certain set of local progressives and Democratic insiders. Experienced Democratic party operative Sean Braisted serves as her campaign spokesman, and Claudia Huskey, also a veteran operative and former senior aide to Vice President Al Gore, is managing the effort. She counts people like Mary Mancini — who may well be the new Tennessee Democratic Party chair soon after you read this — and Lisa Quigley, Rep. Jim Cooper’s chief of staff, as friends and supporters.

The label is also tied to her sponsorship of two pieces of council legislation in particular: one to add nondiscrimination protections for gay, lesbian and transgender Metro workers, and the other to enact a living wage for Metro employees.

The biggest initiative of her tenure was a $5.4 billion plan to expand public transportation in the city. That plan is scheduled for a public vote on May 1st. Starting today, Vice Mayor David Briley will take over as acting mayor.

Here’s Barry’s resignation announcement in which she never mentions the reasons she is leaving and focuses instead on the future of the city.