Nashville Mayor Megan Barry has stepped down today upon pleading guilty to felony theft. A Democrat, Barry previously insisted that she was not resigning even after revealing in a January 31 news conference that she was having an affair with her police bodyguard.
Sergeant Robert Forrest, who like Barry is also married, racked up thousands of dollars in overtime while he headed the mayor’s security detail. According to CNN, his overtime pay soared by 83 percent after Barry took office in September 2015. He reportedly banked about $170,000 in OT from the summer of 2015 through mid-January 2018.
Tennessee law enforcement authorities subsequently launched a criminal investigation into the possible misuse of public money in the scandal.
In addition to day-to-day activities, Mayor Megan Barry and Sgt. Forrest also allegedly traveled together on 10 taxpayer-paid trips out of state or out of the country without any other city staffers.
Forrest announced his resignation from the police department on the same day as Barry’s press conference. At that time, Barry, 54, apologized to her constituents and both families involved and acknowledged that she made a serious mistake. She contended, however, that Sgt. Forrest was never on the clock when they were engaged in romantic encounters.
In addition to being sentenced to three years’ probation, Megan Barry agreed to reimburse the taxpayers in the amount of $11,000 (which is called restitution in legalese).
AP provides more background on the plea deal.
“In court, District Attorney General Glenn Funk said that had the case gone to trial, witnesses would have testified that between March 2016 and February 2018 Megan Barry caused over $10,000 and less than $60,000 of Metro Nashville city funds to be spent unlawfully. The agreement didn’t go into details about the money, however her bodyguard accompanied her on many city-paid trips during their affair.”
Last month, in seeking a search warrant for Megan Barry’s cell phone, investigators said that they found nude photos of a woman on Forrest’s device as well as allegedly 260 deleted chats between Barry and Forrest.
According to Fox News, Forrest also entered a guilty plea on a criminal theft charge and will reimburse the city in the amount of $45,000. His overtime-boosted police pension could also be adjusted downward if the city determines that overtime was improperly collected, the Tennessean added.
Vice Mayor David Briley will now serve as acting mayor. Megan Barry was the city’s first female mayor as well as “the first mayor in Nashville to leave office before the end of their term in nearly a century,” Fox News added. A special election will occur in August for the final year of what would have been Barry’s term.
Watch Megan Barry announce her resignation in the clip below.