Metro paid for bodyguard's hotel rooms even on days off - WSMV News 4

Metro paid for bodyguard's hotel rooms even on days off

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Mayor Megan Barry (Source: Mayor's Office) Mayor Megan Barry (Source: Mayor's Office)
NASHVILLE, TN (WSMV) -

The mayor’s office addressed questions Monday afternoon about why the city paid for hotel rooms for the mayor’s bodyguard even when he wasn’t working.

The News 4 I-Team discovered Mayor Megan Barry and Sgt. Rob Forrest stayed out of town on several trips during 2017, even after public events ended.

On some of those days, taxpayer funds covered Sgt. Robert Forrest’s room tab.

Last week Mayor Barry publicly admitted to having an extramarital affair with Forrest for more than a year.

Over Memorial Day weekend last year, the mayor traveled to San Francisco for the NewDEAL Ideas Summit.

The event started on May 30, but Mayor Barry and Forrest arrived two days earlier. Their inbound flight landed at 3 p.m., signifying the only event on her schedule for May 28.

The next day, May 29, the mayor’s work calendar also appeared blank.

The News 4 I-Team learned nothing was on Forrest’s work schedule for that day, either.

Forrest wasn’t scheduled to work that day, according to a spokeswoman for the Metro Nashville Police Department.

Yet public tax dollars paid for Forrest’s hotel room, and it wasn’t the only time.

A News 4 I-Team examination found the city paid for Forrest’s hotel rooms on four occasions when he was off the clock:

  • May 29, 2017: Metro paid for Forrest’s hotel room at the Hyatt Regency in San Francisco even though Forrest was off the clock that day.
  • Sept. 2, 2017: Metro paid for Forrest’s hotel room at the Sheraton in Kansas City even though he was not scheduled to work. Mayor Barry stayed with her mother in Overland Park to attend a private memorial service for her son, Max.
  • Sept. 16, 2017: Metro paid for Forrest’s hotel room at the Pallas Athena in Athens, Greece, even though he was not scheduled to work.
  • Sept. 17, 2017: Metro paid for Forrest’s hotel room at the Pallas Athena in Athens, Greece, even though he was not scheduled to work.

So if neither the mayor nor Forrest was working on those days, why did taxpayers pay for Forrest to spend the night?

The mayor’s office released a statement Monday afternoon that read in part:

“On those four nights without business….Forrest needed to be available on the following day for travel….his rooms were a legitimate business expense because of his needs to help facilitate travel for the mayor on her return home.”

During a news conference last week, Mayor Barry openly admitted to having an extramarital affair with Sgt. Forrest.

But the mayor maintained that every trip she took with Forrest was for business.

“I would have had the security detail with me as part of my mayor responsibilities regardless of who that person was, but I should not have had that affair,” she said.

The I-Team posed this question to the Metro Police: Why would Forrest not be working on certain days when he’s the only officer tasked with protecting the mayor?

“That is a question for which we do not have an answer,” said Kris Mumford, a spokeswoman for the Metro Nashville Police Dept.

The answer from the mayor's office: "We believe that at no time did Mayor Barry or Sgt. Forrest ever attempt to use taxpayer dollars to support their extramarital affair."

PDFs: Barry's travel expenses | Barry's travel schedule

The mayor’s office released this statement Monday afternoon, addressing the latest questions about the mayor and Forrest’s expenses:

“What the records show is this: 

“Mayor Barry has never sought reimbursement for meals or other expenses related to travel. 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.

“Some of Mayor Barry’s trips were paid for by organizations or foundations that requested her attendance. 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. Nashville is one of the 25 largest cities in the United States of America, and 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 fact, our tourism industry thrives on people who spend an extra day or two outside of a conference to experience a new city. 

“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 by the media 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 arrived on Sunday for a conference that started on Tuesday after Memorial Day. She traveled early so that she wouldn’t have to travel on Memorial Day and would have time to prepare in advance for the conference. She paid for her own hotel room in San Francisco for the extra night. 

“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. That extra night was funded by her own personal funds, not Metro. 

“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, Max, with family in Kansas on Saturday. That flight was paid for out of personal funds. 

“On those four nights without business, Sgt. Forrest had a hotel room paid for by Metro because he needed to be available on a 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. 

“We are also releasing travel schedules from 2015 and 2016. 

“You will see a security detail traveled sporadically with Mayor Barry until mid-to-late 2016. This was based on the recommendations of the Police Department that Mayor Barry have police detail on all official business trips, 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. 

“Mayor Barry’s travel was a reflection of our city’s growing prominence on a national and international stage and her desire to learn more from other Mayors and leaders on how best to implement policies and practices that would meet the needs of the people of Nashville. 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. 

“We will continue to be releasing documents as they become available, and will do our best to answer questions in a timely fashion; however, we will wait to gather as many facts as necessary before commenting in the interest of accuracy.”

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