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NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – Chief Steve Anderson sat down with News 2 on Thursday, one day after the mayor’s bombshell admission she had an affair with the former head of her security detail, a position held by a member of the Metro Nashville Police Department.
Chief Anderson said Sgt. Robert Forrest, who began the affair with Mayor Megan Barry within months of her taking office in September 2015, called him about two weeks ago to let him know he would be retiring.
“And then on Tuesday I learned the details of what you know,” he added, referring to the affair.
The chief said it wasn’t surprising that Forrest retired on such short notice but “I wouldn’t have predicted it.”
“Hardly anything is a surprise. People make up their own minds based on their own circumstances,” Chief Anderson added.
When asked if he ever suspected anything was going on, the chief replied, “I did not.”
Several questions have surrounded the affair since Sgt. Forrest spent so much time with Mayor Barry as he was her top security guard, particularly surrounding the business-related trips the two went on alone, as well as how much overtime pay Forrest was making.
News 2 pressed Chief Anderson on who makes the call when it comes to overtime and the assignments for the mayor’s security.
He said while the actual overtime pay is approved within the police department, the day-to-day plans are decided by the mayor’s office.
“His detail is assigned to the mayor’s office, so the approval of the hours work and that overtime goes through our regular process. It’s approved by the supervisors and the specialized investigations division where he is assigned at the police department,” the chief explained.
“The day-to-day activities and direction is the staff at the mayor’s office, so the hours that people assign there worked, they take their direction from the mayor or the mayor’s staff,” he continued.
Those day-to-day details do not cross Chief Anderson’s desk, he added.
When asked if anything seemed out of the ordinary regarding the pay or other finances, the chief said, “We track every penny that we spend, so there was nothing that was reported to us that was out of the ordinary.”
The chief also said he has not spoken to the former sergeant since the affair was made public, but he said he has spoken to Mayor Barry without offering further details.
Anderson also confirmed what News 2 was told on Wednesday about an attorney asking the police department to hold on to the police-issued cell phone Forrest was expected to return upon his retirement.
“We did get a letter from an attorney asking that the phone be embargoed, so it’s locked in a safe, and should we get a court order to turn over, that’s what we’ll do,” the chief said.
As for policy changes in the wake of the affair, Chief Anderson said no matter who the mayor is, there should be security with them, but he questioned how many people should be on the mayor’s detail team.
“The mayor, whoever the mayor is, in my view, in my position, there should be security with them at all times, so the only thing I concern myself with is the number of hours worked,” he explained.
“We have to pay for all the hours, but it’s not really the money I’m concerned about, it’s the number of hours worked. Do we need to have more people so that there’s not as many hours worked by one individual?” he continued.
Since Jan. 1, 2017, Mayor Barry went on 30 business-related trips. Nine of them were with Sgt. Forrest alone. News 2 asked if that was common for the past two mayors Forrest worked for as well.
“I’m not aware of all the trips that they may have taken, so that’s something that I would have to refer to Sgt. Forrest or the previous mayors,” Anderson replied.
News 2 did speak to one of those mayors, Karl Dean, whose security detail was also headed up by Forrest.
“All I’m going to say is this. I’m not going to talk about other than to say, I know all the different parties involved, they’re friends, and Ann and I are thinking of all of them and we wish everyone well,” he told the media.
When asked if Forrest traveled with him every time he went out of town, Dean replied, “I don’t know what the arrangements were with the detail once I left office, so yeah, I don’t know.”
Anderson also defended the mayor, saying what happened is a personal issue. News 2 asked if the public should maintain their trust, and the chief replied, “Ya know, I don’t see why not. It’s a personal issue and certainly everyone has a right to have an opinion about that, but I think people should look at it and separate it, the business part of the mayor’s job, and make their decisions accordingly.”