Nashville, Tennessee: Mayor Megan Barry resigned Tuesday ending her two-and-a-half year run as Nashville’s first female chief executive after pleading guilty to a felony charge of theft of property. The move capped a turbulent five weeks in which she acknowledged having an affair with former Sgt. Robert Forrest Jr. of the Metro Nashville Police Department, who led the mayoral security detail before retiring in January. Mr. Forrest also pleaded guilty on Tuesday to the same charge as Ms. Barry.the head of her security detail, and faced persistent questions about whether she misspent taxpayer money.
Ms. Barry admitted the affair on Jan. 31. But questions lingered about the city business trips that the pair took, often alone, at taxpayer expense. More recently, reports surfaced of their numerous early-morning meetings in an S.U.V. in a city graveyard. And a special agent for the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation disclosed in court documents that the bureau had discovered nude photos of a woman on Mr. Forrest’s city email account. In the documents, the agent indicated a suspicion that the photos were of the mayor.
Nashvilleans have obsessed over the story in recent days. In a #MeToo era in which power dynamics and questions of workplace relationships have also been subject to fresh scrutiny and debate, some have puzzled over the ramifications of a married woman in a position of authority engaging in a consensual relationship with a subordinate.
Moments earlier, in a courtroom across the street, Ms. Barry had agreed to serve three years of probation and pay restitution to the city after pleading guilty to the theft charge.
In a court document, the Bureau of Investigation indicated that it was looking closely at the 26 out-of-town trips Ms. Barry had taken with Mr. Forrest since April 2016, which was roughly when the affair began. Ms. Barry and Mr. Forrest, who was also married at the time of the affair, were the sole travelers for 10 of the trips, according to the document.
As part of her probation, Ms. Barry was ordered to reimburse the local government $11,000 in “unlawful expenditures” used to pay Mr. Forrest’s travel expenses. She paid the restitution on Tuesday, prosecutors said.
Separately, Mr. Forrest also received three years of probation on Tuesday. According to prosecutors, Mr. Forrest must give back $45,000 that he was paid improperly “during times when he was not performing his duties.”
After the guilty pleas, Glenn Funk, the local prosecutor, met with agents from the bureau and told them they could close their investigation. If Ms. Barry and Mr. Forrest complete probation successfully, they can petition the court to have their criminal records expunged.
Vice Mayor David Briley was sworn in as mayor on Tuesday afternoon, providing what will likely be ideological continuity at City Hall. Like Ms. Barry, Mr. Briley is a Democrat and a known quantity in city politics, having served eight years on the consolidated city-county council.
Mr. Briley, the grandson of Beverly Briley, who served as mayor from 1963 to 1975, supports the multibillion-dollar public transit plan that might had been Ms. Barry’s signature achievement. Voters will consider the plan in a May referendum.
A Vanderbilt University poll last year showed that Ms. Barry enjoyed a 72 percent overall approval rate. A similar poll taken by Vanderbilt after her admission of the affair put her approval at 61 percent.
Many residents seemed willing to initially overlook the drama in her personal life, but there remained a lingering concern that the complications extended beyond questions of romance and into matters of public funds.
The editorial board of The Tennessean, the major local newspaper, called on her to resign in a Feb. 28 column, arguing that Ms. Barry, a former corporate ethics and compliance officer, had “arguably violated” an anti-corruption executive order she had signed in 2016. The Tennessee Tribune, a publication that focuses on African-American issues, called for her resignation on March 1.
The City Council voted last month to create a special committee to investigate the trips. On Tuesday, Councilman John Cooper, a frequent critic of Ms. Barry’s policies, said the committee would probably continue its inquiry, focusing on the way city expenses are handled.
“I do think that, as much of a complicated tragedy as this is as a personal story, Nashville will survive this,” Mr. Cooper said.
Ms. Barry, 54, had wowed Nashville’s large contingent of liberal voters during a 2015 election with her support for gay rights and a promise to bring a world-class transit system to a city where rapid growth and a burgeoning reputation as a hub for young creatives have generated both excitement and anxiety.
God Bless Texas @GHalv: Inside #MeganBarry’s Office: Her staff’s criminal charges & civil lawsuits. Criminal charges, civil lawsuits, unpaid cash advances, evictions, court fees owed to metro.. the mayor’s staff is a mess.
#ThePersistence Verified account @ScottPresler: Feminism means not sleeping with another married woman’s husband. #MeganBarry
Delilia O’Malley @DeliliaOMalley: It’s too bad because Mayor Barry did a lot of good things for Nashville but hey…next time have an affair with your own money. #MeganBarry
Philip A. Holloway Verified account @PhilHollowayEsq: Apparently #MeganBarry “stole” the “services” of her Police Bodyguard because he was being paid by taxpayers during their visits to the cemetery.
Derek Hunter Verified account @derekahunter: Notice how most of the stories about Democrat #MeganBarry focus more on the affair she had rather than her and her boyfriend pleading guilty to ripping off taxpayer money. She didn’t plead guilty to an affair, she pled guilty to a crime.
God Bless Texas @GHalv#MeganBarry — partying with her lover, living the high life, while cheating on her spouse, on the TAX PAYER DIME.
Lindsay Griffin @lindsayArt8: We MUST address police brutality in Nashville now. NO Nashville citizen deserves to die at the hands of police & then when we try to get justice we have the police literally intimately involved with Mayor #MeganBarry. We will prevail for #JusticeForJocques #COBNow #nashvilleCOB
0ne Good Gonz0 @serr8d: #MeganBarry has no remorse. Her only sin, as far as she’s concerned, was GETTING CAUGHT. A #BlondeMoment? actually, TWO YEARS of BLONDE MOMENTS! #BillBoner can rest easy now. He’s no longer #Nashville’s Worst Mayor Ever.
Michael R Shannon @ReluctantUser2: Evidently the curriculum didn’t rub off. Disgraced, adulterous, resigned #MeganBarry “worked in corporate ethics” before becoming #Nashville mayor. Why is it when “ethics” is made a job title ethical behavior starts eroding?
Giuseppe Cocchini @GCocchini: #NashvilleBarry #Nashville #MeganBarry Notice Megan Barry never apologized to the citizens of Nashville for her outlandish behavior and theft of their money. She’s an embarrassment to the entire state of TN and one more reason to never vote for a female Democrat, all corrupt.
American. Surgeon. @SanzianaR: So, my take on this is that if you have a candidate for mayor and their last name is Barry and their first name starts with an M, be careful, it’s a curse. #MarionBarry #MeganBarry
EARLIER: HerToo : Married Nashville Mayor, Megan Barry, Admits Affair with Bodyguard – Nashville, Tennessee, USA: Nashville Mayor Megan Barry (D) released a statement today acknowledging an extramarital affair with her former head of security, Metro police Sergeant Robert Forrest Jr.
Read the full Statement:
“I accept full responsibility for the pain I have caused my family and his. I am so sorry to my husband Bruce, who has stood by me in my darkest moments and remains committed to our marriage, just as I am committed to repairing the damage I have done.
I also must apologize to the people of Nashville who elected me to serve as your mayor. I knew my actions could cause damage to my office and the ones I loved, but I did it anyway. I must hold myself to the highest standard of which the voters deserve to expect. Please know that I’m disappointed in myself but also understand that I’m a human and that I made a mistake.
In 2015, I was elected to serve as Mayor of Nashville on a platform that included building more affordable housing, improving public education, and promoting better transportation options. We have made progress on these fronts – but there is more to be done. While I regret any distractions that will be caused by my actions, I remain firmly committed to working hard to serve the people of Nashville now and into the future.
God will forgive me, but the people of Nashville don’t have to. In the weeks and months to come, I will work hard to earn your forgiveness and earn back your trust.”
In an interview with NewsChannel 5 Investigates, Mayor Megan Barry insisted that she has not misused taxpayer funds as part of the relationship with Metro Police Sergeant Rob Forrest.