One of the investigations into Nashville Mayor Megan Barry is beginning to take shape, and as it does, members of the Metro Council say they need a public mandate to move swiftly.
On Thursday, the seven-member Council Special Committee recommended a law firm to lead the investigation and approved the parameters of work that Metro Auditor Mark Swann will handle. The committee also agreed to meet again late Tuesday night — after the regularly scheduled council meeting concludes — so as not to delay progress next week.
"People want to see this moving forward, and I would rather put in the extra hours to keep it moving forward and at least get to some ultimate resolution sometime before budget starts," Councilman Robert Swope said, referring to the budgeting process that begins later this month and concludes in May.
Even so, the work of the auditor and the soon-to-be-hired law firm could take several weeks to review records before shifting into potential interviews with officials — a process that is yet to be outlined.
On the question of hiring outside legal assistance, the committee unanimously endorsed the firm of Burch, Porter & Johnson, of Memphis. Vice Mayor David Briley, himself an attorney, had named the firm one of two "high-qualified" finalists.
Committee members decided on Burch, Porter & Johnson largely because the firm does not have a practice in Nashville. They also quoted the committee a somewhat lower hourly fee, of no more than $395 per hour — a rate that is itself substantially discounted because the work will be government-related. (The full Metro Council still must vote on the firm.)
One role of the firm would be to interview people related to the case in private, whereas work done by the actual committee must be carried out in public.
Meanwhile, the auditor has now written his investigative intentions, and the committee approved his outline.
The investigation is one of four that has followed Mayor Megan Barry's disclosure of a 2-year affair with former police Sgt. Robert Forrest, who had led her security detail.