Since Mayor Megan Barry admitted to her two year adulterous relationship with Sgt. Robert Forrest, head of her security detail and an active duty Metro police officer more details are known about the opportunities city-funded travel provided to facilitate their affair. From her first statement admitting to the affair, the Mayor has insisted that “how much and how often” she was covered by security, including her travel with Sgt. Forrest, was dictated and authorized by police department policy even though it has been documented that prior to her affair, the Mayor “routinely traveled without security.”
The Star has asked Sean Braisted, the Mayor’s Director of Communications, Police Chief Anderson and Don Aaron, Public Affairs Manager for the Police Department, for a copy of the policy that the Mayor has insisted is operational.
There has been no response from either the Mayor’s office or the police department and no written policy has been provided.
During an extended interview, Police Chief Anderson has stated a preference that the mayor have security at all times because“you are always the mayor and you should be secured appropriately” but has also admitted that “at this time that’s not something that is feasible.”
What’s not clear from the Chief’s interview, however, is whether security traveling out of state or overseas with the Mayor has a twenty-four hour duty to respond to a potential security threat, effectively keeping the security detail “on the clock” at all times during the travel.
Police Chief Anderson’s earlier statements that he did not approve Sgt. Forrest’s travel despite being included on the Travel Authorization document’s notification and approval chain has been confirmed by the discovery of the “computer glitch.”
Metro Nashville Government’s Information Technology claimed the error resulted from a “computer glitch.” It’s been reported that after the Mayor began her affair with Sgt. Forrest, the Mayor’s office “‘made an ‘unusual’ change to security protocol” moving both the approval and payment of travel and expenses from the police department to the Mayor’s budget. Over-time incurred by the security detail is reportedly still submitted, approved and paid for by the police department.
The change in what was regarded as “longstanding [police department] policy, abetted by a feature of the computerized trip approval process, allowed the Mayor’s office free reign to arrange and approve trips taken alone by the Mayor and Sgt. Forrest, including the one to Greece.
The Police Chief has also been clear in saying that Sgt. Forrest’s schedule, hours and day to day directions were dictated by the Mayor’s office. He has also stated that “the Mayor is the boss and I would have to do what the Mayor says.”
According to the Mayor’s official calendar released by her office subsequent to her admission of adultery, her last official act during her time in Greece took place on the morning of September 15 in Athens. Her official calendar shows nothing scheduled from the evening of Friday, September 15, through Sunday, September 17. She and Sgt. Forrest returned to Nashville on a flight that left Athens early Monday morning, September 18.
Last week WSMV reporter Alanna Autler asked the Mayor about that trip and specifically what she was doing on the days not accounted for in her official calendar. The Mayor refused to respond to the question but did say she would cooperate in answering questions asked by the TBI.
In a response to questions about the Greece trip asked by The Star four days after the Mayor’s admission to the adultery, her Director of Communications Sean Braisted confirmed that “Mayor Barry’s travel and lodging expenses were paid for by 100RC, any other costs she paid for out of pocket.”
The Mayor’s experience as an ethics compliance officer may serve her well as to the charge of misappropriation of public funds if indeed any of her and/or Sgt. Forrest’s travel expenses were paid for privately. The Mayor has stated repeatedly that she is confident that hours worked and business trips taken will align with public funds expended.
There remains, however, a possible ethics violation connected to the payment of the Mayor’s travel and lodging by 100RC and/or the possible co-mingling of Sgt. Forrest’s travel expenses which were publicly financed with the on-going extramarital affair on trips taken alone by the Mayor and Sgt. Forrest.