Mayor’s office says travel expenses during affair were legitimate city business

After Mayor Megan Barry’s affair with Sgt. Rob Forrest, the former head of her security detail, was made public, she released a statement acknowledging the affair and apologized while promising to work hard to earn back public trust.

Since Forrest traveled with the mayor, questions were raised as to whether travel expenses were billed to the city, meaning taxpayer dollars indirectly paid for this affair.

Tuesday, Mayor Barry’s Communications Director Sean Braisted released a statement outlining the facts and information “as best we know them at this time,” adding that expense reports, receipts, schedule and other documents will be released soon.

“Mayor Barry has never sought reimbursement for meals or other expenses related to travel,” Braisted’s release stated. “She has never sought to financially benefit from any of the travel she has taken on behalf of the city. We believe that at no time did Mayor Barry or Sgt. Forrest ever attempt to use taxpayer dollars to support their extramarital affair. ”

According to Braisted, organizations or foundations that requested her attendance paid for some of the mayor’s trips.

“Any other hotel expense or airfare paid for by Metro was for official business on behalf of the city of Nashville booked through the normal scheduling process.

On most of the Mayor’s travel, she was with an assigned security detail,” the statement continued.

“Many mayors throughout the country travel with security detail. Whether for a domestic or an international trip, the protective detail is responsible for advancing   the Mayor at meetings and events, understanding security protocols and safe entrances and exits, and ensuring that the Mayor is able to travel safely and keep to the schedule of events. In domestic airports, the protective detail goes through the TSA U-FAN program in order to quickly move through security checkpoints while being armed.

“There were a handful of occasions when Mayor Barry stayed an extra day or two in a city where she traveled. That isn’t unusual… In those few cases, Mayor Barry paid for her own hotel rooms out of personal funds or stayed with family.

“On those few occasions, Sgt. Forrest, in his capacity as the head of her security detail, also stayed those extra nights in a separate hotel room – which were paid for by Metro – because the official schedule would soon resume in that city.

Those total four nights in 2017, and on each of those nights, Sgt. Forrest did not record on-duty hours that would have resulted in pay or overtime.

“The trips being questioned are her trips to San Francisco for the NewDEAL Ideas Summit in May of 2017, her trip to Kansas City to tour soccer and transit facilities and speak with the Mayor of Kansas City concerning that city’s experiences with these projects, and a trip to Athens, Greece, as a member of the 100 Resilient Cities.

In San Francisco, Mayor Barry paid for her own hotel room for the night before her meeting the next day.

In Athens, the 100RC conference ended on Saturday, and her hotel charges were covered by the Rockefeller Foundation through Saturday night, though she did not have any official business scheduled on that day. She chose to stay one extra day – Sunday – before flying back on Monday and paid that bill from her personal account.

In Kansas City, Mayor Barry stayed with her mother in Overland Park, Kansas, following official business on Friday; she had a private family memorial service for her son. On those four nights without business, Sgt. Forrest had a hotel room paid for by Metro because he needed to be available on the following day for travel. While Mayor Barry paid for her own rooms, or stayed with family, Sgt. Forrest’s rooms were a legitimate business expense because of his need to help facilitate travel for the Mayor on her return home.

Her travel schedule from 2015 and 2016 shows that security detail traveled sporadically with Mayor Barry until mid-to-late 2016, based on the recommendations of the Police Department based on increases in terrorist attacks and mass shootings both domestic and international, and because we had an opportunity to learn what worked best in terms of logistics for travel.

“We have not identified any days during this time period in which the Mayor stayed more than necessary for her official duties.

To the best of our knowledge, Sgt. Forrest has not claimed overtime or other expenses beyond what was required of him in his official capacities,” according to the statement. “ Sgt. Forrest’s travel was a reflection of his role as the head of the Mayor’s security detail and the person primarily responsible for the Mayor’s safety and security.

“As the Mayor has acknowledged, it was inappropriate to start and continue this relationship, but we believe that any and all expenses incurred by either Sgt. Forrest or Mayor Barry were in the course of normal business.”

Wanda Southerland
Contributor to The News