Megan Barry resigned as Nashville’s mayor Tuesday morning, weeks after admitting an affair with the police officer who ran her security detail.
Barry announced her resignation at a news conference, shortly after she pleaded guilty to a felony theft charge related to the affair, the Tennessean reported.
She kept her remarks brief and smiled throughout the announcement.
“It has been my honor and it has been the privilege of my entire professional life to have had the blessing and the opportunity to be your mayor,” Barry said. “God bless this wonderful city. I love you, Nashville.”
She did not answer shouted questions on her way out of the news conference, including whether her resignation had been part of a plea deal. The Associated Press reported that it was.
The 54-year-old Democrat, who was elected mayor of Tennessee’s bustling capital in 2015, disclosed the affair to the media in late January.
“Today I acknowledged publicly that I have engaged in an extramarital affair with the former head of my security detail,” Barry said in a Jan. 31 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 Metropolitan Nashville Police Department. Their affair began in mid-2016, the newspaper reported, but Barry said it ended before her public admission. Forrest has resigned from the department.
In the following weeks, Barry faced growing calls to resign and became the subject of multiple investigations, including a criminal inquiry by the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation, the Tennessean reported.
On Tuesday, she pleaded guilty to theft of property over $10,000; Barry agreed to reimburse the city $11,000 and serve three years’ probation, according to the newspaper.
Vice Mayor David Briley becomes Nashville’s acting mayor. Barry wished him and others well as she resigned.
“I sincerely hope and believe that my own actions will not tarnish or otherwise detract from all of the great work that they do,” she said.
Briley, 54, is a Nashville native who was elected vice mayor in 2015. He previously was an at-large member of the Metropolitan Council from 1999 to 2007.
“This is a hard day for Nashville,” Briley said in a statement Tuesday afternoon. “Mayor Barry’s resignation will enable us to regain focus on the important work of our city. My pledge is simple: As mayor, I will begin work immediately with a sole focus on managing the city and making progress on community priorities. That work will be transparent and be conducted with every effort to restore public trust, and move our great city forward.”
Briley was scheduled to be sworn in as mayor at 5 p.m. local time Tuesday.
Barry has been considered a rising political star, and the disclosure comes at a fraught time for her.
A contentious $5.4 billion mass-transit project she has backed is up for voter approval in May. Last year, her 22-year-old son Max died of a drug overdose; Forrest was the officer who broke the news to Barry, 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. Barry traveled alone with Forrest on nine of the trips, including one to Greece 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.”
In January, Barry said she and Forrest are no longer seeing each other.