Megan Barry and bodyguard records show travel extended beyond conference days in two cities

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Nashville Mayor Megan Barry addresses the media on news of her affair
Michael Schwab

Mayor Megan Barry and the police bodyguard with whom she had an affair spent extra days in Athens, Greece, and San Francisco when the mayor says she visited those cities for official travel, according to documents obtained by the USA TODAY NETWORK – Tennessee. 

Barry admitted Wednesday to the affair with Sgt. Rob Forrest Jr., who until this week was a Nashville police officer and the head of her security detail. On nine trips during a 10-month span in 2017, Forrest was the only city employee who accompanied Barry. 

Barry, a Democrat, said all of the trips were for city business. 

“So those trips were all business-related, and those trips he traveled with me as my detail, which is standard policy with the police department, to have detail with me wherever I am,” Barry said Wednesday.

The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation is looking into travel expenses and overtime incurred during the trips. 

► More: Analysis: Mayor Barry’s affair complicates already difficult transit fight

► Timeline: A look at Nashville Mayor Megan Barry’s trips with her staff

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Greece in September

Barry traveled to Athens, Greece, with Forrest for seven days in September. Her records state she attended the Athens Democracy Forum and 100 Resilient Cities’ City Leaders Advisory Committee Meeting. 

But on two of the days, Barry’s work calendar does not list any conference events. Typically when traveling, her calendar is filled with meetings, seminars or other events.

The Athens Democracy Forum, sponsored in part by the New York Times, took place in hotels and other venues across the city. The 100 Resilient Cities group includes cities from across the world that work together to share ideas for city governments.

► More: Megan Barry bucks predecessors’ security travel policy

The calendar shows her flying to Greece on Sept. 12, arriving late in the day. There is a detailed list of events on her calendar for Sept. 13, 14 and the morning of Sept. 15, a Friday. There is also a “VIP dinner for city leaders” included on Friday with a time listed as “TBD,” or to be determined. 

But on Sept. 16 and 17, the weekend, there were no scheduled events on the mayor’s calendar. Her calendar states she flew back to Nashville the morning of Sept. 18. 

More: Nashville council budget chair calls for inquiry into expenses after Mayor Megan Barry admits affair

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Nashville Police Chief Steven Anderson speaks on the Megan Barry news.
USA TODAY NETWORK-Tennessee

Her office did not respond to questions about what Barry did those two days in Greece.

Forrest reported spending $2,031 on airfare to Greece and another $1,155 on a room at the Palas Athena, which describes itself as “an art boutique hotel for luxurious downtown living.”

Barry did not report any expenses for her trip to Athens. On some trips, Barry spokesman Sean Braisted said earlier in the week, foundations or organizations hosting the conferences cover the travel costs. On Friday, he did not answer questions about the mayor’s travel. 

The discrepancy between the mayor’s calendar and the conference dates raises more questions, Metro Councilman Bob Mendes said.

“It doesn’t tell me for sure that taxpayer money was spent beyond what needed to be spent in any way — like is the flight cheaper during the weekend than during the week?” Mendes said.

“The fact is that ethics issues have to do with impropriety and the appearance of impropriety. And unfortunately, these travel records raise questions about the appearance of impropriety.”

► More: Conflicted about the Mayor Barry scandal? I am too.

San Francisco on Memorial Day 

Travel, expense and calendar records provided by the mayor’s office show Barry and Forrest traveled in May 2017 to San Francisco to attend the NewDEAL Ideas Summit, hosted at LinkedIn’s building. While records show the pair were out of Nashville from May 28 through May 31, the conference occurred on May 30 and May 31, according to conference materials

Records show Barry and Forrest both spent $510.95 for a round-trip flight on Southwest from Nashville to Oakland, near San Francisco. It’s unclear if they were on the same flight. The conference reimbursed Metro for the cost of Barry’s flight, records show. 

Barry’s calendar shows her flying out the morning of May 28, a Sunday. Her calendar doesn’t list any meetings that day or May 29, which was Memorial Day. 

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Full event of Nashville Mayor Megan Barry addressing the media
Michael Schwab

On May 30, Barry lists “registration opens” at 1:30 p.m for the conference. And on May 31, Barry includes four conference sessions on her schedule before flying back to Nashville in the evening.

In addition to his flight, Forrest reported spending $906.27 for a room at the Hyatt Regency.

The records do not say where the mayor stayed, and her office did not respond to that question Friday. 

Reach Dave Boucher at 615-259-8892 or dboucher@tennessean.com. Reach Anita Wadhwani at awadhwani@tennessean.com or 615-259-8092. Reach Nate Rau at nrau@tennessean.com or 615-259-8094.

 

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