When asked his opinion about whether the Mayor’s leadership credibility has been damaged by the Mayor’s two year extramarital affair and details like pictures of the Mayor interacting with her lover’s family while the affair was on-going, Metro Councilman Steve Glover responded with his trademark candor:
I am not qualified to speak about the city’s view of her credibility; I will simply say that if it were me dealing with this issue, I would question if I could continue to lead with this cloud hanging over my head.
On-going investigations may show that the “cloud” of the Mayor’s affair implicates members of her staff who arranged publicly financed travel for the Mayor and Sgt. Forrest, facilitating the adultery and providing opportunities for them to be alone together.
The Mayor has expressed confidence that an investigation into the expenditure of public funds will find that all trips were related to city business and that police department policy mandating her security detail means that those funds would have been spent regardless of whether or not it was Sgt. Forrest providing her security coverage.
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. A copy of the policy has not been provided.
The Mayor, however, has been silent as to the ethics questions raised by the circumstances of her affair. She has been deliberately vague about the beginning and end dates of her affair. And, depending on how you read her initial responses to that question, it looks like for whatever purpose not yet known, her office has tried to move that timeline into the spring or summer of 2016.
During the Mayor’s first public statement about the affair in her interview with NewsChannel 5, she admitted that her affair started “shortly after I came into the Mayor’s office.” Later that same day during her staged public admission, she stated that the affair started “several months after I came into my administration.”
The Mayor was sworn into office on September 25, 2015 and signed her first Executive Order that same day.
Five months later on February 24, 2016, and by the Mayor’s own timestamp possibly after the affair had already begun, the Mayor 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 EO explicitly states that it applies to the Mayor and the Mayor’s office.
The Star asked Councilman Glover whether he thought there was any way for the Mayor to have had a two year affair with Sgt. Forrest,an active duty police officer and a subordinate employee to the Mayor, and not be in violation of the EO and the Metro Code of Conduct.
Glover carefully qualified his answer with the disclaimer “I am not an attorney,” but continued that “in my reading of the Executive Order dated 2/24/2016, it appears that multiple violations occurred. Section 2.1(f) seems to reach out with the greatest impact; as does (3) and (5).
Section 2.1(f) of the EO states:
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:
f. affecting adversely the confidence of the public in the integrity of the Metropolitan Government.
Section 3 of the EO states:
Mayor’s office covered. This order applies to the Mayor and employees of the Mayor’s office.
Section 5 of the EO states:
Questions on interpretation of this order. When an employee is in doubt as to the proper interpretation of this order, he or she is expected to seek the advice of the applicable Department Head or the Director of Law if time permits, or to use good judgment in accordance with (1) above and to report the gift, entertainment or favor to the Department Head or the Director of Law within seven (7) days.
With regard to this section the EO, The Star has repeatedly asked the Mayor’s Director of Communications “did the Mayor submit a request to any Department Head or the Metro Law Director with regard to whether accepting the payment of her airfare and lodging in Greece [from 100RC] violated her EO#005 and/or Metro Code 2.222.020s?”
No response has been provided by the Mayor’s office.
The Mayor has already admitted that she made governance mistakes, first by having a two year affair with Sgt. Forrest and then by not disclosing this to the Chief of Police to have Sgt. Forrest removed from the security detail. She even admitted to making these “mistakes” knowingly and deliberately – “I knew my actions could cause damage to my office and the ones I loved, but I did it anyway.”
She has also tried to convince the public that her affair will not interfere with working for Nashvillians – “I believe that as the mayor I’ve been able to do a lot of really good things in the city with the Metro Council and with the people I work with.”
Glover, a member of the Metro Council Budget & Finance Committee says the Mayor’s affair is interfering with important Council business:
I personally have spent countless hours distracted by this issue over the past several weeks, when we should be focused on the major debt and spending problems the city is facing. We do not have the luxury of time as we head into a very strained budget season.
The Mayor’s dodge on the ethics issue is not lost on Glover who has said that the chief executive of the city should understand that you don’t have sex with a subordinate employee even if it’s not specifically spelled out in the ethics and code of conduct guidelines.
Megan Barry was an ethics compliance officer before she was Mayor.