NASHVILLE, TN — Nashville Mayor Megan Barry admitted to an affair with the now-former chief of the mayoral security detail Wednesday, but said she is not resigning.
Sgt. Rob Forrest, the head of Barry’s security detail, retired Wednesday, ending a 31-year career with the Metro Nashville Police Department. Forrest had overseen mayoral security for Barry and her two immediate predecessors Karl Dean and Bill Purcell.
Rumors about a connection between Forrest’s retirement and a relationship with the mayor swirled through Nashville political circles Wednesday but repeated calls and emails to the Mayor’s office and Barry staffers were not returned, while sources in the Metro Council told Patch to anticipate a statement from the mayor some time Wednesday afternoon. By early Wednesday evening, Barry’s staffers were confirming a relationship between the mayor and a member of her security team that began shortly after her inauguration to Metro councilmembers and saying that she would remain in office, a stance confirmed in Barry’s statement sent to the press shortly before 5 p.m.
"Today, I have acknowledged publicly that I have engaged in an extramarital affair with the former head of my security detail.
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."
During a crowded press conference Wednesday night, the mayor called the affair "a mistake" but "not a tragedy," and said that the relationship with Forrest was "between two middle-aged consenting adults who had feelings for each other."
The mayor’s admission did raise questions about the sharp increase in overtime pay for Forrest during her tenure. He averaged $34,000 a year in overtime for the last three years of Dean’s eight-year tenure and then rose sharply to around $60,000 in fiscal year 2015-16, increasing again to more than $75,000 in fiscal year 2016-17. Travel records provided by the mayor’s office show that Forrest went with the mayor as part of her security detail on trips to San Francisco, Salt Lake City, Denver, Washington and overseas to Athens and Paris. In a press conference, the mayor insisted the overtime and travel would have been incurred by the taxpayer regardless of who was on the security detail. Metro Police spokesman Don Aaron told NewsChannel 5 the mayor "kept a daunting schedule" and that the overtime paid to Forrest was a reflection of that.
For his part, Forrest released a statement through his attorney, high-profile Nashville lawyer David Raybin, saying:
For over 31 years I have been honored to serve in the Metropolitan Nashville Police Department. I devoted 14 years of that time supervising the mayor’s protective detail during three administrations.I deeply regret that my professional relationship with Mayor Barry turned into a personal one. This has caused great pain for my wife, my family, friends and colleagues. At no time did I ever violate my oath as a police officer or engage in actions that would abuse the public trust.I have recently retired from the police department. I hope that the media and public respect my privacy and that of my family as I seek to rebuild the trust of the ones I love the most."
Forrest’s wife, Penny, referred questions to her attorney and told WSMV to "ask the mayor" about a relationship between Barry and Forrest.
In a letter filed two weeks ago with the MNPD, Forrest did not give a reason for his departure, saying simply "I have had an outstanding career and have enjoyed coming to work each day. I plan to make the transition as smooth as possible."
Forrest was the officer who informed the mayor and her husband Bruce that their son Max had died of an overdose in July.
Image via Office of the Mayor