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Nashville mayor admits affair with former head of security

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – Mayor Megan Barry admitted Wednesday evening to having an extramarital affair with her former head of security, a confession that has rocked the city and her constituents.

The announcement was made first in a prepared statement, released shortly before 5 p.m., in which Barry writes, “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.”

Her former head of security, Sgt. Robert Forrest, also retired Wednesday after announcing his plans to do so just two weeks ago on Jan. 17.

In her statement, Barry, a Democrat, goes on to apologize to her 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.”

Barry and her husband lost their only son, Max, this past July. The mayor was informed of his death by Sgt. Forrest, who has worked for the Metro Nashville Police Department for over 32 years and also served as the head of security for former mayors Bill Purcell and Karl Dean.

The former police sergeant also addressed the affair Wednesday evening, saying he “deeply regrets” that his professional relationship turned personal.

“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,” he continued. Click here to read his statement in full.

During a press conference a few hours later, Barry said their affair began a few months after she took office in late September 2015. When asked if the affair was over, she said, “It’s over.” When asked when it ended, she repeated, “It’s over.”

She faced questions from local media, many about whether or not taxpayer dollars were misused or if anything illegal happened while the two of them, who she describes as “middle-aged, consenting adults who had feelings for each other,” were having a relationship.

She said no, and noted she is “absolutely” comfortable with an internal investigation, saying, “Our records are available for anybody to look at. Absolutely.”

A reporter then asked, “Are you saying nothing at all illegal happened during the course of this relationship?”

“Absolutely. There were no policies that were violated.There was no -nothing illegal happened. The records will absolutely show that the expenses match with the overtime expected, and I welcome anybody to take a look at that,” the mayor responded.

The overtime she was referring to stems from information released by the Metro Nashville Police Department that shows Forrest’s overtime pay increased when Barry took office. During the last three years of Dean’s term, his overtime ranged between $31,700 and $35,000. When Barry took office, his overtime increased to just under $60,000 during the 2015-16 fiscal year and over $75,000 during the 2016-17 fiscal year.

“Detail is with you all the time. I think that you can look at my schedule since the time I’ve come into office. I’ve had a very aggressive schedule, I’m out in the community, and that’s reflected with the overtime that has been billed to my detail,” Barry explained, noting the police department sets the policy for how much and how often the mayor is covered by security.

When asked if she is the one who approved the overtime pay, Barry said no, that it’s all done within the police department itself.

Other questions were raised about the mayor’s travel over the past year. Documents released by her office show that from January 2017 until present, over $30,000 taxpayer dollars were spent on Barry and Sgt. Forrest’s travel expenses. Barry took 30 trips in total, 7 of which were personal to visit her son or take vacation with friends, while 9 were with Sgt. Forrest alone, including a trip to Greece, reportedly for the Athens Democracy Forum.

“Those trips have been always for business,” Barry told the media. “They have included trips to conferences, they have included trips to best practices, looking at transit, looking at soccer stadiums, and every single one of them was a business-related trip.”

In all, the mayor’s office released four documents along with her statement, including the travel expenses and schedule, as well as texts with security detail and her calendar from January 2017 until present.

Barry said she never considered resigning from her position over this, calling the day “a very bad day.”

“And I’m going to have several more bad days, but this is not my worst day, and I will tell you that I know the difference between a mistake-and I made a serious mistake-but this is not a tragedy, this was a mistake,” the mayor continued.

A reporter then asked what she would say to those calling for her to resign, she replied, “I will look forward to continuing to work for Nashvillians. We have an agenda in this office that is robust and we have been focused on transit and housing and education, and we will continue to do that.”

The mayor also said she told her staff of the affair over the past two or three days. Before then, no one knew, leaving many in shock Wednesday, including members of the Metro Council and other leaders across the city.MORE: Nashville city officials, leader respond to Mayor Barry’s affair

WISH-TV’s sister station WKRN also learned Wednesday night that an attorney has asked Metro police to preserve the data on Sgt. Forrest’s police-issued cell phone after he was expected to turn it in upon his retirement. Details on why weren’t clear.

Mayor Barry’s public statement reads, in full:

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.