Three members of Mayor Barry’s staff and the department head of Information Technology Services are scrambling to explain just exactly how it came to be that travel by her security chief and lover, Sgt. Rob Forrest, was not authorized by Police Chief Steve Anderson, as documents the Mayor’s office gave to NewsChannel 5 and Fox17 on Friday purported, but was instead authorized by her Chief of Staff, Debby Mason (pictured above).
“Months after Mayor Megan Barry began an extramarital affair with her bodyguard [which Mayor Barry told WSMV on Friday began in spring of 2016], one of the mayor’s top aides, [Chief Operating Officer] Rich Riebeling, made an ‘unusual’ change to security protocol,” The Tennessean reported late Monday.
“Instead of following a longstanding policy that the police department pay for the travel expenses incurred by officers on Barry’s security detail, the mayor’s office began approving and paying for those expenses out of its own budget,” The Tennessean reported.
“The mayor’s chief of staff Debby Dale Mason assumed the authority to approve travel expenses on October 11, 2016, for all of the mayor’s bodyguards, including Forrest,” The Tennessean added.
Apparently no one in the Mayor’s office, however, informed the official who had the legal authority to approve those expenses, Police Chief Steve Anderson.
Of even greater concern, subsequent to the October 11, 2016 move to grant that approval authority to Mason and remove it from Chief Anderson without his knowledge or consent, the Metro Nashville Government’s Information Technology system falsely showed that Chief Anderson had approved those expenses. The Mayor’s office calls this inexplicable occurrence a “computer glitch,” but it is almost certainly not a system glitch, and instead a change made within the system by an unknown authorized individual.
In information technology terminology, the “glitch” is not a bug in the system, but rather a feature of the system, operating as those who have administrative authorization within the system have instructed it to operate.
The Tennessean also noted that only one of the nine trips Sgt. Forrest and Mayor Barry took together alone occurred prior to Chief of Staff Mason’s assumption of travel authority approval authority on October 11, 2016. Eight of those trips took place after that date.
On Saturday, The Tennessee Star explained the problem identified in the travel documents released on Friday by the Mayor’s office to NewsChannel 5:
In a Travel Authorization form submitted by Sgt. Forrest on October 4 at 3:02 pm for the October 20 to 25 trip to Paris with Mayor Barry and other Metro Nashville employees, the “history” section claimed that the Mayor’s Chief of Staff, Deborah Mason, was notified of the request at 3:02 pm and that Police Chief Steve Anderson purportedly approved the request at 5:45 pm, at which time Eugene Nolan, Deputy Director of the Finance Department, was notified. Nolan approved the request the following day, on October 5 at 12:22 pm, at which time the request was deemed “completed.”
When NewsChannel 5 pointed out this error to the Mayor’s office, they called it “a glitch.”
But a more troubling explanation may apply as well.
Chief of Staff Mason was notified at 3:02 pm, but inexplicably, Police Chief Anderson was not.
The system appears to be set up so that an approval can come only after an individual has received a notification.
But the notification sent to Mason was immediately followed by an approval, purportedly by Anderson, according to the Mayor’s office. But Anderson was never notified.
Somehow, the system may have been manipulated by an unknown individual so that Chief Anderson’s appeared as the approver when, in fact, another individual was the approver.
“Chief Anderson never saw any of those,” Don Aaron, MNPD spokesperson, told Williams of the documents provided to NewsChannel 5 that purport to show Anderson had approved Forrest’s travel authorization documents for trips with Barry.
“Every travel request from a member of the Police Department is routed to him. These were not,” Aaron added.
As NewsChannel5 reported on Friday, Keith Durbin, the head of Metro Nashville Government’s Information and Technology Services Department (pictured above), offered this tortured explanation for how the city’s IT system falsely showed, from October 11, 2016 until its discovery by NewsChannel 5 on February 9 by NewsChannel 5, that Chief Anderson approved the travel, when in fact, he had not:
Durbin’s subsequent explanation to The Tennessean was equally eyebrow raising:
That’s because Mason’s name was set up as Forrest’s supervisor in the system in 2016, and according to Durbin, the computer system automatically listed Anderson as approving the requests.
According to his bio on the Metro Nashville website, “Keith Durbin has been the Chief information Officer and Director of the Information Technology Services Department of the Metropolitan Government of Nashville and Davidson County, Tennessee since January, 2009. Previously he held the elected office of 18th District Councilman on the Metropolitan Council from 2007-2009.”
The explanation offered by Sean Braisted, Mayor Barry’s director of communications, was no less tortured than Durbin’s.
“This is nothing more than a coincidental computer system error,” Braisted told The Tennessean.
Most information technology experts would be more likely to call this a “red flag” which suggest the entire Metro Nashville Government information system lacks internal controls and the normal checks and balances found in well constructed systems that are designed to prevent abuses of financial authorizations and expenditures.
With millions of state and federal dollars running through the Metro Nashville Government, calls for state and federal investigations of the operations of Metro Nashville Government may be the next steps in the ever unfolding scandal surrounding Mayor Megan Barry’s two year long extramarital affair with her bodyguard, Sgt. Rob Forrest.