Nashville Mayor Megan Barry and her security chief, Rob Forrest, traveled alone together to a conference in Greece in September, several Middle Tennessee media outlets reported on Wednesday.
Forrest and Barry were alone in Athens, Greece for seveb days, from September 12 to September 18, 2017 attending the Athens Democracy Forum & 100RC City Leaders Advisory Committee Meeting, according to documents released by the Mayor’s Office.
During this time, Forrest was paid by the taxpayers of Metro Nashville/Davidson County to provide security for Mayor Barry. Forrest’s travel and lodging expenses were paid for by Metro Nashville/Davidson County. It is not clear whether taxpayers or a private foundation paid for Mayor Barry’s travel and lodging for the Athens, Greece trip.
“Documents released by her office show that from January 2017 until present, over $30,000 taxpayer dollars were spent on Barry and Sgt. Forrest’s travel expenses. Barry took 30 trips in total, 7 of which were personal to visit her son or take vacation with friends, while 9 were with Sgt. Forrest alone, including a trip to Greece, reportedly for the Athens Democracy Forum,” WKRN reported.
“During 2017, travel records show Forrest traveled with the mayor to San Francisco, Salt Lake City, Denver, Washington several times, as well as New York. In September, he flew with her to Athens, Greece. The next month, he traveled to Paris all, at taxpayer expense,” NewsChannel 5 reported.
According to the documents released by the Mayor’s Office, Barry and Forrest were alone together on eight additional taxpayer funded trips in 2017:
- From February 2 to February 4 at the Women in Government Leadership Program in Washington, D.C.
- From March 5 to March 6 at the International Association of Firefighters in Washington, D.C.
- From May 15 to May 17 at the for Participation in Infrastructure Week in Washington, D.C.
- From May 28 to May 31 at the Participation in NewDeal Ideas Summit in Washington, D.C.
- From July 6 to July 9 at the Women in Government Summer Meeting in Park City, Utah.
- From July 16 to July 20 at the Bloomberg Harvard City Leadership Initiative in New York City.
- From August 31 to September 3 at the Tour of Children’s Mercy Park and a meeting with the Kansas City Mayor in Kansas City, Missouri.
- From October 18 to October 19 to deliver a speech to the Woodrow Wilson Center for International Scholars and to attend “Voice for Urban Growth: Women Leading the Nation” in Washington, D.C.
During 30 trips beyond Nashville taken by Mayor Barry in 2017, Forrest was the only Metro Nashville employee who ever traveled alone with the mayor. In every other trip where she was accompanied by a Metro Nashville security officer other than Forrest, either another security officer, another Metro Nashville official, or a paid consultant to Metro Nashville was present.
At a press conference at the Nashville Metro Court House Wednesday night, when asked if their had been any “personal engagement” while Forrest was “on the clock,” Barry said “No.”
Mayor Barry was not asked at the press conference if Forrest was “on the clock” the entire time the two were together alone in Athens, Greece, nor was she asked if any “personal engagement” between the two lovers took place at any time during the Metro Nashville taxpayer funded trip.
She was also not asked if anyone in the Mayor’s Office raised red flags prior to the trip to Athens if it was appropriate for Mayor Barry and Forrest to travel together alone on a seven day international trip.
“Barry told her staff about the affair Wednesday afternoon and then held a 16-minute early evening news conference, where several of the mayor’s aides and a handful of council members watched. Barry addressed the media standing on a stage alone without her husband, Bruce Barry, in the room,” The Tennessean reported.
When asked at the press conference when the affair ended she just replied “it’s over” and did not answer further. When asked how it ended she again responded only that “it’s over” and provided no explanation.
“It started several months after I came into my administration,” Barry said of the affair at her press conference. She was elected in September 2015.
The mayor had a slightly different version of the timeline in an exclusive interview earlier in the day with NewsChannel 5.
“The relationship started shortly after I came into the Mayor’s office,” Barry told NewsChannel 5’s Phil Williams.
Late Wednesday, The Tennessean reported “She [Mayor Barry] confirmed the affair with Metro police Sgt. Robert Forrest Jr., which began in the spring or summer of 2016, just months after she entered office the previous fall. Forrest submitted his retirement papers Jan. 17. His final day was Wednesday.”
She was asked at the press conference if she had spoken to Forrest’s wife about the affair, and she said “no.”
At her press conference, Mayor Barry did not answer questions from reporters about the reasons for the timing of her lover’s retirement as security chief, referring them to Mr. Forrest.
In a letter released by his attorneys on Wednesday, Forrest said “I have recently retired from the police department. I hope that the media and public respect my privacy and that of my family as I seek to rebuild the trust of the ones I love the most.”
“Barry and Forrest are both married. Barry said the relationship was discovered during conversations between their spouses and private discussions,” The Tennessean noted.
NewsChannel 5 noted that before Mayor Barry, ” Forrest provided protection for former Mayors Bill Purcell and Karl Dean.”
He averaged $34,000 a year in overtime for the last three years of Dean’s term.
But after Barry took office, Forrest’s overtime pay increased to just below $60,000 in fiscal year 2015-16.
The next year, that increased to more than $75,000, bringing his total pay to $157,187 for fiscal year 2016-17.
Metro Police spokesperson Don Aaron explained that “Mayor Barry has kept a daunting schedule since her election.”
“The overtime,” Aaron added, “is a reflection of that morning to night AND weekend schedule.”
NewsChannel 5 Investigates asked Barry, “Some people will look at that and say that taxpayers are paying for this relationship. What would you say to that?”
“What I think what this reflects,” she responded, “is the policy that the police have about making sure that when I am working that I have detail. I don’t think it’s a secret that I do work a lot and I do have a pretty aggressive schedule.”
We asked, “Was he getting paid by taxpayes at any point when you all were having your personal time?”
“No,” she insisted.