The mayor of Nashville apologized Wednesday for having an affair with the head of her security detail, a police officer.
Megan Barry, 54, a Democrat who was elected mayor of Tennessee’s bustling capital in 2015, disclosed the affair to the media.
“Today I acknowledged publicly that I have engaged in an extramarital affair with the former head of my security detail,” Barry said in a 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.”
The Tennessean identified the officer as Sgt. Robert Forrest Jr. of the Metropolitan Nashville Police Department. Their affair began in mid-2016, the newspaper reported.
Forrest, 58, a 31-year veteran of the department who was in charge of the Barry’s security detail, had submitted his retirement papers in January. His last day was Wednesday, reports said. He had been in charge of at least two other mayors’ security details.
Barry’s time at the helm of Nashville has raised her profile, as the city continues to grow in size and stature.
She has been considered a rising political star, and the disclosure comes at a fraught time for Barry. A contentious $5.4 billion mass-transit project she has backed is up for voter approval in May. Last year, she lost her 22-year-old son Max to a drug overdose. Forrest was the officer who broke the news to her, according to the Tennessean.
The affair has also drawn scrutiny to the overtime the officer accrued while managing her detail.
According to the newspaper, Forrest accompanied Barry on trips to Paris, Athens, Washington, New York, Denver, Oakland and other cities in the past year.
Forrest racked up around $33,000 in expenses for the trips and more than $50,000 in overtime in 2017 on top of an $84,500 salary, the Tennessean reported.
Nine of the trips were only Barry and Forrest, including a Greece trip in September, according to the newspaper.
“I deeply regret that my professional relationship with Mayor Barry turned into a personal one,” Forrest said in a statement provided by lawyer David Raybin. “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.”
Barry answered questions about the trips at a news conference Wednesday night, describing them as a routine consequence of the itinerary for a busy mayor and her security detail.
“I think you can look at my schedule since the time I came into office. I have had a very aggressive schedule,” Barry said. “Every single one of them was a business-related trip.”
She said she and Forrest are no longer seeing each other.
“This is a bad day, and there’s going to be more bad days, but this is not my worst day,” Barry told the Tennessean. “And I know the difference between a mistake — which is what I made and I fully own — and a tragedy. And this is not a tragedy. And I want to regain the trust of Nashvillians. And I will continue to serve.”
The newspaper reported that the affair had also raised questions about whether Forrest could be considered a subordinate of Barry professionally, potentially calling into question other issues of propriety around their relationship.
John Cooper, a councilman who the Tennessean said was a regular critic of the mayor, said that Forrest “clearly worked for the mayor,” as a subordinate.
“That kind of relationship is a problem anywhere in Metro government, especially if taxpayer funds were used for their personal travel,” Cooper said, according to the newspaper.
Barry maintained that Forrest worked for the police and was not a direct subordinate.
A statement from the city’s police chief, Steve Anderson, said that he did not know of the affair with Barry until Tuesday, WSMV reported.
“Chief Anderson has nothing to add to what Mayor Barry has already said and will say later this evening. While he knew that Sgt. Forrest gave notice of his retirement on January 17, he was unaware of the issue involved until yesterday,” the statement from the police department said.
On Wednesday night, Barry apologized again for her actions.
“I am deeply sorry,” she said. “And I am embarrassed and I am sad. And I am so sorry for all the pain that I have caused my family and his family. And I know that God will forgive me but that Nashville doesn’t have to. I hope that I can earn their trust and I can earn your trust back.”