The 2017 Guide to the Mayor’s Office, posted on the Metro Nashville government website starts with the Mission Statement for the Mayor’s Office:
To serve the citizens of Davidson County by directing the executive and administrative functions of the Metropolitan Government through enhanced collaboration while ensuring the local government operates in an efficient, transparent and fiscally responsible manner.
On February 24, 2016, Mayor Megan Barry signed Executive Order 005, Financial and other disclosures by certain Metropolitan Government employees and officials; ethics, conflict of interest, and acceptance of gifts on the part of employees of Metropolitan Government.
The Mission Statement of the Mayor’s office and her Executive Order are both implicated by Barry’s two year affair with a subordinate Metro Nashville employee while both of them were on the Metro payroll and using public funds to travel together on city business.
“Fiscal responsibility” has emerged as a dominant issue as details of the affair have emerged, some of which are opaque at best.
While the Mayor has been deliberately vague on the precise starting and ending dates of her affair with Sgt. Robert Forrest, head of her security detail, she has insisted that every trip on which they traveled alone together, was in furtherance of city business. By the Mayor’s own admission, however, the time stamp she provided means that public funds provided opportunities to facilitate the adultery in which the Mayor and Sgt. Forrest committed.
The Mayor has insisted that her “personal time” with Sgt. Forrest during these trips did not occur while they were “on the clock” suggesting somehow that neither the Mayor’s duties nor Forrest’s security duties were executable during times when the affair was being consummated. It remains to be seen how the Mayor could provide credible evidence to support this position.
According to Metro Police Chief Anderson, once the security detail is assigned to the Mayor’s office, that person “take[s] their direction from the mayor or the mayor’s staff.”
The Mayor’s Executive Order 005 states upfront:
I. The maintenance of high standards of honesty, integrity, impartiality, and conduct by employees and agents of the Metropolitan Government is essential to the proper performance of government business and the maintenance of confidence by citizens in their government; and
II. The avoidance of misconduct and conflicts of interest on the part of employees of the Metropolitan Government is indispensable to the maintenance of these standards.
- Employee responsibilities. Each employee of the Metropolitan Government shall avoid any action, whether or not specifically prohibited by this order, departmental codes of ethics, or Metro Code of Laws Section 2.222.020, which might result in, or create the appearance of:
a. using a public office for private gain;
b. giving preferential treatment to any person;
c. impeding government efficiency or economy;
d. losing complete independence or impartiality;
e. making a Metropolitan Government decision outside of official channels; or
f. affecting adversely the confidence of the public in the integrity of the Metropolitan Government.
The EO specifically states that all of its terms apply to the Mayor and employees of the Mayor’s office.
Whether the Mayor can credibly prove that no public funds were implicated during the course of her two year affair with Sgt. Forrest remains to be seen.
The Mayor’s own EO creates a reasonable expectation that the city’s chief executive officer would make reasonable efforts to comply with standards that help preserve confidence in how the city’s business is effectuated and the credibility of its leadership. In effect, the Mayor’s own EO suggests that there are no dividing lines between time off or on the clock.
During the Mayor’s News Channel 5 interview breaking the story of her adultery and her subsequent press conference later in the day, in an effort to suggest that her reckless behavior can be divided between her elected and ethical duties, the Mayor stated “I knew it was wrong but I did it anyway.”