Mayor Megan Barry Faces Ethics Complaint From Advocates Of Police Oversight | Nashville Public Radio

Mayor Megan Barry Faces Ethics Complaint From Advocates Of Police Oversight

Feb 7, 2018

A group of citizens who have advocated for a community oversight board to review claims of police misconduct will file an official ethics complaint later today against Mayor Megan Barry.

The complaint questions the potential repercussions of the mayor’s extramarital relationship with a police officer, Sgt. Rob Forrest, including her ability to act as an “honest broker” between the community and Metro Police.

The five-page document also suggests that the mere possibility that someone at the police department — including Forrest — could have released details about her clandestine relationship could have swayed the mayor’s decisions “whenever MNPD’s interests were at odds with members of the public or other government institutions and their representatives.” It adds that “we, as citizens, can have no clear assurance that her decisions and her actions, particularly around public safety and policing, were not made under duress.”

Activist Theeda Murphy, with the group “Community Oversight Now,” says she will present her concerns to the five-member Council Board of Ethical Conduct.

A spokesperson for the mayor said Barry “has taken policy positions she believes are in the best interest of the entire community based on staff and community input.”

Action by the Board of Ethical Conduct would be the third investigation the mayor faces over her affair with Forrest. And there still may be a fourth: Metro’s Internal Audit Committee will decide next week if they’ll also get involved.

The Investigations

1. Tennessee Bureau of Investigation

The morning after the mayor announced her affair with Forrest, Nashville District Attorney Glenn Funk asked the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation to begin an independent investigation to determine whether any laws were broken by the illicit relationship, including misappropriation of public funds and official misconduct.

Much like they handle officer-involved shootings, TBI agents will interview witnesses and review evidence. Then, they'll submit their findings to the city’s prosecutor, who will make the final decision on whether the mayor, or anyone else, will be criminally charged for any wrongdoing.

It is unknown whether the public will ever see the results of the investigation, as TBI files are protected by state confidentiality laws.

2. Council Special Committee

Approved by Metro Council by just one vote Feb. 6, a special committee — with subpoena powers — will be formed to investigate whether public money was misused in the course of the mayor’s affair with her bodyguard.

Primary pushback for the creation of this committee was led by council members Bill Pridemore and Russ Pulley, both former Metro police officers, who questioned whether a second investigation could interfere with the TBI’s work. In the end, the committee was approved after concerns were raised about the potential confidentiality of the TBI investigation — especially as council members hear urgent requests from residents to openly share the results of any probes.

The special committee has the power to issue recommendations or even refer the case for criminal or civil litigation, but, regardless of its findings, does not have the power to force the mayor to resign.

3. Council Board of Ethical Conduct

The formal complaint filed this afternoon by members of Community Oversight Now comes after they had circulated an open letter to the council earlier this week citing similar concerns. At Tuesday’s council meeting, board chairwoman Sheri Weiner said an official, notarized complaint would have to be filed to the Ethical Conduct board.  

The complaint will be added to the board’s Feb. 21 agenda, where they’ll set a future date of discussion. Metro’s law department will be responsible for reviewing the complaint and producing a report for the five-member panel, after which a meeting will be convened to discuss its merits. If they decide to take on the investigation, it could be weeks – or months — until a decision is reached.

The board can issue recommendations or even refer the case for criminal or civil litigation, but it does not have the power to force the mayor to resign.

4. Internal Audit Committee

The committee’s job is to conduct financial and other performance audits into government and official spending, including investigations about potential fraud.

Their involvement was proposed by council members Bob Mendes and John Cooper, although both have since put their support behind the Council Special Committee, noting that the auditors tend to have a more narrow focus than what might be called for in this situation.

The audit committee members will decide on Feb. 13 if they will take on their own investigation.