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The Investigations That Mayor Megan Barry Could Face

Posted: 10:16 PM, Feb 01, 2018
Updated: 2018-12-27 03:49:56Z

According to state law and the city charter, Mayor Megan Barry could potentially face at least three separate investigations stemming from her admitted affair with her bodyguard and police sergeant Rob Forrest .

District Attorney General

One investigation, already underway, has been requested from District Attorney General Glenn Funk's office. 

The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation says it will conduct the investigation looking into whether she and Police Sergeant Rob Forrest violated any criminal law like official misconduct or misappropriation of public funds, surrounding the overtime Forrest racked up on trips with Barry.

The results of that investigation could directly lead to criminal charges and a trial, which potentially could end in Barry's removal from office.  The investigation could also find that no laws were violated.

Metro Board of Ethical Conduct

A second investigation could be taken up by Metro's Board of Ethical Conduct , made up of five people representing different community organizations: the League of Women Voters of Nashville, the Nashville Area Central Labor Council, the Napier-Looby Bar Association, the Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce and the Nashville Bar Association.  Metro Councilwoman Sherri Weiner also serves on the board, but in a non-voting role.

An investigation by the Board of Ethical Conduct can only begin with a complaint against Barry, which can be filed by anyone who lives in Nashville, saying she violated Metro's Standards of Conduct The Board has said they have not received any such complaint yet.

If a complaint were to be received, the Metro Director of Law would evaluate it, and if he thinks there's the potential that the Standards of Conduct were violated, the Board of Ethical Conduct could hold a hearing.

Following that hearing, which could involve witnesses, evidence and cross-examination, the board could make any of several recommendations, which would not have the effect of law. 

The board could recommend that Barry be censured by Metro Council – a formal rebuke.  The board could also recommend that Barry resign, or recommend that civil action be filed against her.  The board could also recommend the process that has already started: that the District Attorney look into criminal charges.  Of course, the board could find that no standards of conduct were violated at all. 

It takes four out of five votes on the board to issue a recommendation.

Metro Council

The Metro charter also allows for a third investigation -- this one from the Metro Council -- either as a whole, or any of its committees. 

A special committee –- similar to one formed recently to discuss short term rental legislation in Nashville -- could also be convened. 

The council would have the authority to conduct the investigation itself, or hire outside investigators or auditors to help.

A Metro Council investigation would require a super-majority approval: 30 of its 40 members.  The counsel for Metro’s lawmaking body says such a vote to convene a Metro Council investigation has never passed.

There's somewhat of a trouble spot with this option, however: the Metro charter doesn't spell out what the council can do with the results of any investigation they commission or conduct, meaning it would likely only be able to recommend referral to the other investigators -- the District Attorney and/or the Board of Ethical Conduct.