Muskegon Heights city manager suspended over vendor contract, pay

Muskegon County

MUSKEGON HEIGHTS, Mich. (WOOD) — The Muskegon Heights city manager has been suspended while the city council deliberates next steps in regards to leadership.

Troy Bell, whose legal name is Darryl LeTroy Bell, was appointed to fill the city manager role late last year but has since come under fire for how he has managed the city’s affairs.

On Monday, the Muskegon Heights City Council placed him on paid suspension pending the outcome of an investigation, city attorney Doug Hughes confirmed to News 8.

Hughes said the council voted 5-2 in favor of suspending Bell with Mayor Walter Watt and Councilman Marshal Cook casting the two dissenting votes.

Hughes said the council’s move related to allegations that Bell mismanaged city business by engaging it in an inappropriate contractual relationship with a software company, making payments to the company without authorization and paying himself an hourly rate from the city budget at a time when he should have been paid a straight salary.

The contract Bell signed on the city’s behalf obligated the city to pay for a communications software system at a rate of $7,900 each month for the first year and a higher rate for the second year, committing the city to pay more than $189,600 for the service.

On the issue with Bell’s salary, the city council agreed to initially pay him to work part-time at an hourly rate of $44.27. Bell was supposed to transition to a salary of $85,000 for his first year after he completed certification through the International City Managers Association and worked full-time for the city. But instead of switching to a salary, Bell continued to pay himself the hourly rate, which meant he was paid more than he would have received in salary.

A concern about Bell’s role in an incident at a Norton Shores Meijer store earlier this year also played a small role in the council’s decision, Hughes said. Police said Bell became involved in an incident at a Meijer with a suspected shoplifter. Norton Shores Police Chief Jon Gale said there were allegations that someone involved “showed something that looked like a badge.”

“It’s really confusing whether he said he was a police officer or not,” Gale told News 8. “There wasn’t a complainant that pushed the issue.”

The case was not forwarded to the prosecutor and no charges were ever filed.

News 8 reached Bell at his lakeshore home Tuesday but he declined to comment.

“I’m sorry,” he said before closing his front door.

The city attorney said Bell was present when the council suspended him, but would not tell News 8 what Bell had to say, citing the fact that it was a closed meeting.

“He had plenty of chance to say what he wanted,” Hughes said.

The city’s former finance director Lori Doody has been appointed as interim city manager during Bell’s suspension.

“If the city needs some help I’m happy to do it,” Doody told News 8.

Before coming to Muskegon Heights, Bell made news for his exit from his job in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, where he served as the city’s chief administrative officer. News reports from 2017 indicate that he resigned that job days after he was appointed amid accusations that he lied about his credentials.

In 2016, the Union-Bulletin newspaper reported that Bell was fired from his deputy city manager role in Walla Walla, Washington, after the city manager said his performance was “not what was hoped for.”

In 2006, a termination letter published by The Advocate indicated Bell was fired by the state of Florida from his role as deputy director of real estate. The same outlet published a 2003 termination letter ousting him from his role with the South Florida Water Management District.

Online reports from Miami-Dade County courts in Florida show Bell has had run-ins with the law in the past. In 2000, he was accused of unlawful use of a police badge and battery against an officer, but records indicate the case was dropped and closed just over a year after it was filed.

In 1998, he also faced accusations of battery in a case that was dismissed for “speedy trial” reasons, indicating he was denied his constitutional right to have the case adjudicated in a timely fashion.

The Muskegon Heights mayor declined to comment on the matter when reached by News 8 Tuesday.

“I cannot speak to any of those matters on the advice of counsel,” Watt told News 8. “I am going to have to leave that alone right now.”

The city council is expected to take top the matter again before the end of the month, when Bell’s suspension is set to expire. Hughes said “everything’s on the table” in regards to what might happen next.

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