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Megan Barry, Nashville Mayor, Pleads Guilty to Theft and Agrees to Resign

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NASHVILLE — It was an abrupt and disappointing end to a mayoralty for which many in Nashville had once harbored great hopes.

On Tuesday, Mayor Megan Barry brought her two-and-a-half year run as the city’s first female chief executive to a dramatic close, pleading guilty to a felony charge of theft of property and announcing her resignation. The move capped a turbulent five weeks in which she acknowledged having an affair with the head of her security detail, and faced persistent questions about whether she misspent taxpayer money.

Ms. Barry, 54, had wowed Nashville’s large contingent of liberal voters during a 2015 election with her support for gay rights and a promise to bring a world-class transit system to a city where rapid growth and a burgeoning reputation as a hub for young creatives have generated both excitement and anxiety.

But Ms. Barry’s wonkish policy goals were eclipsed by details of her affair with former Sgt. Robert Forrest Jr. of the Metro Nashville Police Department, who led the mayoral security detail before retiring in January. Mr. Forrest also pleaded guilty on Tuesday to the same charge as Ms. Barry’s.

A contrite but forthright Ms. Barry admitted the affair on Jan. 31. But questions lingered about the city business trips that the pair took, often alone, at taxpayer expense. More recently, reports surfaced of their numerous early-morning meetings[1] in an S.U.V. in a city graveyard. And a special agent for the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation disclosed in court documents that the bureau had discovered nude photos of a woman on Mr. Forrest’s city email account. In the documents, the agent indicated a suspicion that the photos were of the mayor.

Nashvilleans have obsessed over the story in recent days. In a #MeToo era in which power dynamics and questions of workplace relationships have also been subject to fresh scrutiny and debate, some have puzzled over the ramifications of a married woman in a position of authority engaging in a consensual relationship with a subordinate.

For others, the news was also distressingly personal, coming months after the city rallied[2] to help Ms. Barry mourn her 22-year-old son, who died of a drug overdose in July.

On Tuesday morning, a visibly shaken Ms. Barry read a prepared statement at City Hall, in a room packed with reporters. She spoke of an optimistic city that would continue its positive trajectory.

“It is a continued climb that I will watch, but I will watch as a private citizen,” she said. “And I will be tremendously proud nonetheless.”

Moments earlier, in a courtroom across the street, Ms. Barry had agreed to serve three years of probation and pay restitution to the city after pleading guilty to the theft charge.

In a court document, the Bureau of Investigation indicated that it was looking closely at the 26 out-of-town trips Ms. Barry had taken with Mr. Forrest since April 2016, which was roughly when the affair began. Ms. Barry and Mr. Forrest, who was also married at the time of the affair, were the sole travelers for 10 of the trips, according to the document.

As part of her probation, Ms. Barry was ordered to reimburse the local government $11,000 in “unlawful expenditures” used to pay Mr. Forrest’s travel expenses. She paid the restitution on Tuesday, prosecutors said.

Separately, Mr. Forrest also received three years of probation on Tuesday. According to prosecutors, Mr. Forrest must give back $45,000 that he was paid improperly “during times when he was not performing his duties.”

After the guilty pleas, Glenn Funk, the local prosecutor, met with agents from the bureau and told them they could close their investigation. If Ms. Barry and Mr. Forrest complete probation successfully, they can petition the court to have their criminal records expunged.

Vice Mayor David Briley was sworn in as mayor on Tuesday afternoon, providing what will likely be ideological continuity at City Hall. Like Ms. Barry, Mr. Briley is a Democrat and a known quantity in city politics, having served eight years on the consolidated city-county council.

Mr. Briley, the grandson of Beverly Briley, who served as mayor from 1963 to 1975, supports the multibillion-dollar public transit plan that might had been Ms. Barry’s signature achievement. Voters will consider the plan in a May referendum.

A Vanderbilt University poll last year showed that Ms. Barry enjoyed a 72 percent overall approval rate. A similar poll taken by Vanderbilt after her admission of the affair put her approval at 61 percent[3].

Many residents seemed willing to initially overlook the drama in her personal life, but there remained a lingering concern that the complications extended beyond questions of romance and into matters of public funds.

The editorial board of The Tennessean, the major local newspaper, called on her to resign in a Feb. 28 column, arguing[4] that Ms. Barry, a former corporate ethics and compliance officer, had “arguably violated” an anti-corruption executive order she had signed in 2016. The Tennessee Tribune, a publication that focuses on African-American issues, called for her resignation[5] on March 1.

The City Council voted last month to create a special committee to investigate the trips. On Tuesday, Councilman John Cooper, a frequent critic of Ms. Barry’s policies, said the committee would probably continue its inquiry, focusing on the way city expenses are handled.

“I do think that, as much of a complicated tragedy as this is as a personal story, Nashville will survive this,” Mr. Cooper said.

At the Hotel Indigo, a short walk from City Hall, news of Ms. Barry’s fate traveled fast. Casey Rauscher, 30, a valet parking attendant, said that he thought Ms. Barry had done good work as mayor, making sure the city’s growth was “positive growth.”

But he also said she was right to step down. “I don’t think you should be able to steal in political office and get away with it,” he said.

Richard Fausset reported from Nashville, and Mitch Smith from Chicago.

A version of this article appears in print on , on Page A16 of the New York edition with the headline: In Wake of Affair, Mayor of Nashville Pleads Guilty to Theft and Steps Down. Order Reprints | Today’s Paper | Subscribe[6][7][8]

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References

  1. ^ numerous early-morning meetings (www.newschannel5.com)
  2. ^ the city rallied (www.tennessean.com)
  3. ^ put her approval at 61 percent (news.vanderbilt.edu)
  4. ^ arguing (www.tennessean.com)
  5. ^ called for her resignation (tntribune.com)
  6. ^ Order Reprints (www.nytreprints.com)
  7. ^ Today’s Paper (www.nytimes.com)
  8. ^ Subscribe (www.nytimes.com)

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Houston Recalls Legacy of George Bush, Its Lone Star Yankee and Senior Booster

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HOUSTON — Inside the airport that bears his name, George Herbert Walker Bush looks, at a distance, as if he’s wearing a cape.

An 8-foot-tall bronze statue at the Houston airport shows Mr. Bush, who , Barbara Bush[4], who died in April at the age of 92. After Mr. Bush’s death on Friday, Houston lost its two most famous residents in the span of seven months.

“George H.W. Bush served with valor and integrity as the 41st president of the United States,” Houston’s mayor, Sylvester Turner, said in a statement. “But to Houstonians he was one of our most esteemed and relatable neighbors. He and his wife, Barbara Bush, were our sports teams’ biggest fans, and boosters for everything Houston.”

This was the man whose most memorable quote in years had to do with men’s hosiery. In 2012, as his fondness for wearing bright eye-catching socks was going strong, he explained that he simply “likes a good sock.” At his wife’s funeral at St. Martin’s Episcopal Church in Houston, Mr. Bush wore a pair of socks with a colorful stack-of-books design, a tribute to Mrs. Bush’s advocacy work for family literacy.

In Houston and its surrounding suburbs, Mr. Bush had not only an airport in his name but a park, a high school and a few more life-size statues. Above Buffalo Bayou, a bronze statue of Mr. Bush looks out into the distance with his hand in his pocket, gazing at, of all things, James A. Baker III, the former secretary of state and Mr. Bush’s tennis partner at the Houston Country Club. The statues of the two close friends face each other in the downtown park, separated by about 100 yards, in Houston’s oddest and longest-running staring contest.

“All I can do now,” Mr. Bush told The New York Times in 2011 about the statue, “is hope that the pigeons will be kind and gentle.”

Charles C. Foster, a Houston immigration lawyer and a longtime friend of the Bush family, came up with the idea for the George H.W. Bush Monument, which was unveiled in 2004. Mr. Foster recalled the day he sat in Mr. Bush’s office at 10000 Memorial Drive and asked for his blessing for the project.

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Mr. Bush in 1970, when he was a congressman.CreditAssociated Press

“He looked at me and he sort of looked up at the ceiling,” Mr. Foster said. “He pointed to the ceiling and said, ‘Shouldn’t you wait until I’m up there?’ And then he said, pointing downward, ‘Or perhaps down there?’”

In 1990, Mr. Bush helped turn the eyes of the world to Houston.

As president, he brought thousands of reporters and foreign dignitaries to Houston that summer for the Economic Summit of Industrialized Nations, an annual gathering of the world’s economic powers. The summits had been held in a number of global cities — London, Tokyo, Paris, Venice — and Mr. Bush made the case that his adopted hometown belonged among such world-class company.

Houston was scrappier back then. The city was rebounding from an oil bust in the 1980s that crippled the economy, and it tried hard to present its best, and cleanest, face to the cameras and the visitors, picking up millions of pounds of trash, repaving roads and enlisting the aid of 12,000 volunteers.

“That was huge for Houston,” Mr. Foster said of the 1990 summit. “When the president had a chance, he could have picked some mountain retreat. But he picked his hometown. He was well aware of the chip on our shoulders that we didn’t feel like Houston got the recognition that it should.”

Now, with 2.3 million residents (compared with 1.6 million in 1990), Houston is the fourth-largest city in America, known as much for its diversity as its energy-capital status. George Bush High School, part of the Fort Bend school district, is 43 percent Hispanic, 38 percent black, 12 percent Asian and 4 percent white. More than 90 languages and dialects are spoken in the district.

Early Saturday morning in the upscale Tanglewood area, Houstonians paused at the gates at South Post Oak Lane and North West Oak Drive — the entrance to the gated community where Mr. Bush lived. Someone draped an American flag in the center of the gates, decorated for the holidays with Christmas wreaths.

Shirley Matthews, 66, a lifelong Houstonian who lives nearby, walked up and took a picture of the memorial for her mother. “He was just a good person,” she said. “He wasn’t perfect. But it’s family, and we love each other.”

References

  1. ^ died at his home here on Friday (www.nytimes.com)
  2. ^ Read the obituary of George H.W. Bush. (www.nytimes.com)
  3. ^ the funeral for his wife (www.nytimes.com)
  4. ^ Barbara Bush (www.nytimes.com)

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A Close Race, a Mysterious Ballot and Control of Alaska’s House at Stake

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With a crucial legislative seat in Alaska teetering toward a tie earlier this month, lawmakers in Juneau braced for the possibility of a coin toss deciding control of the state’s House of Representatives. Then a mysterious extra ballot emerged that threw the process into further disarray.

Amid several counts, the latest coming on Friday afternoon, a single ballot drew scrutiny across the state.

The state’s review board certified the race, between Kathryn Dodge, a Democrat, and Bart LeBon, a Republican, as a tie earlier this week, with exactly 2,661 votes going to each candidate. The extra ballot, for Ms. Dodge, could have settled the race for the Fairbanks-area district seat.

Later on Friday, the mystery appeared to have been solved — but the standoff over who won the election continued.

Samantha Miller, a spokeswoman for the state elections office, said that workers at Fairbanks’s No. 6 precinct told officials that a woman had come into the polling place to request a special needs ballot on behalf of her husband, who was outside in a vehicle.

The woman came back into the precinct. Her husband had made a mistake, she told the precinct worker, and needed a new ballot. She left behind the one he had already marked, thus making it a spoiled ballot.

The precinct chair told the worker who took the spoiled ballot to put it into a secrecy sleeve, “and that they would deal with it later in the day,” Ms. Miller said.

But instead, the spoiled ballot was put into a compartment with other questioned ballots.

Typically, Ms. Miller said, spoiled ballots are destroyed once they are accounted for. So, because the mystery ballot was found to be spoiled, it will not be counted, she said.

Still, that left the question of what happens if the recount that began on Friday afternoon ends in a tie — again.

Ms. Miller said that both candidates had five days to file a legal challenge to the results. And if the court decided the recount went as it should have, and the race was still a tie?

The prevailing candidate would be determined “by lot,” Ms. Miller said. “It could be a coin toss or some other way of deciding, as long as it’s random.”

It would not be the first time an Alaska race was determined by coin toss.

In 2006, State Representative Bryce Edgmon[1], a Democrat from Dillingham, beat the incumbent, Carl Moses. Mr. Moses’s name was drawn, so he got to make the call: Heads.

The state’s elections director at the time flipped an Alaska Mint medallion — the side with a walrus being heads and the side with the state seal being tails. It landed state seal side up.

Ms. Miller would not speculate about when the recount would be complete, but said both candidates were present, along with observers and officials.

Mr. LeBon did not respond to requests for comment on Friday.

Sara Harriger, a spokeswoman for Ms. Dodge, said in a statement that during Friday’s recount, one additional vote was found for Ms. Dodge and a challenged ballot was allowed for her opponent, Mr. LeBon, which meant that the tally stood at 2,662 apiece. Still tied.

Ms. Dodge said in a statement that she believed every legally cast ballot should be counted. “I just want everyone watching this process to take away a sense of confidence in our democratic system and a commitment to cast their votes in future races,” she said, “and knowing that their votes will matter.”

Ms. Dodge had said earlier on Friday that legal action “unfortunately” seemed probable.

“It’s certainly not what any of us expect when we set out to campaign, to find ourselves in a squeaker of this nature,” she said. “I hope we don’t have a coin toss. I don’t know quite what to say, but it doesn’t feel like it’s an appropriate way to settle an election.”

In Alaska, the repercussions of this race will be felt into the next legislative session, though party control of the House in Juneau will be far from clear-cut.

Political coalitions in Juneau do not always come down to party-line votes like in other state houses. Even if Ms. Dodge wins the race, Democrats would still not have an outright majority, and so members of the House will still be tasked with negotiating a coalition majority.

References

  1. ^ Bryce Edgmon (akleg.gov)

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3 Killed After Pickup Truck Fleeing Border Patrol Hits Tire Spikes and Crashes

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Three people in a packed pickup truck were killed on Thursday afternoon after the driver ran over tire spikes and crashed on a Southern California highway while trying to flee Border Patrol officers, the authorities said.

The officers turned on their vehicle’s emergency lights and began chasing the pickup truck on Interstate 8, near Boulevard, Calif., at around 4:20 p.m., according to the United States Customs and Border Protection. The authorities said they believed that the pickup truck had been illegally driven over the southern border and had crashed through an “iron bar vehicle barrier.” They said they identified it by matching a piece that was missing from the truck to one agents had spotted on the ground near the border, though they did not elaborate.

The pickup truck reached speeds of over 100 miles per hour, weaving between cars and bypassing others on the side of the highway, before it drove over spikes that the Border Patrol had placed on the road, the California Highway Patrol said. About a mile later, the truck spun out of control and flipped over, ejecting the nine people who were riding in the truck’s bed, the authorities said.

A woman inside the truck, who was not wearing a seatbelt, was killed, as were two people riding in the bed, the police said. Seven people who had “multiple serious injuries” were taken to the hospital, a spokesman for Customs and Border Protection said.

The driver, a United States citizen whose name was not released, was the only person wearing a seatbelt, the agency said. The California Highway Patrol took the man into custody, but it was not clear whether he had been charged. The identities of the passengers in the truck have not been released either.

“The investigation into the smuggling incident is ongoing,” the spokesman said in an email, “and the Border Patrol is fully cooperating with the CHP in their investigation of the collision.”

About an hour after the crash, the Border Patrol stopped another vehicle that officers believed had crossed over the border with the pickup truck, the agency said. The driver of that car was also arrested.

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