MUSKEGON HEIGHTS, Mich. (WOOD) — The city of Muskegon Heights released records that shed new light on the decision to suspend the city’s top executive.

The Muskegon Heights city council voted to suspend City Manager Troy Bell amid concerns about how he handled city business pertaining to a communications technology vendor and matters surrounding his pay.

Bell entered a contract on the city’s behalf with a company called Bloomz. The contract called for the business to provide a communications platform to connect city residents with city hall. But some city council members questioned whether Bell violated city policy when he entered into the costly contractual agreement without the approval of the city council.

The city released two contracts with Bloomz pursuant to a Freedom of Information Act request from News 8.

Bell signed both contracts electronically, the records show, though it was not immediately clear which contract was in effect.

The Bloomz contracts are entitled “Final Proposal for City of Muskegon Heights, Michigan” and “Proposal for City of Muskegon, Michigan.”

Oddly, the “Final Proposal” contract was signed on Jan. 6, the barely legible signature certification appears to state, while the contract not marked “Final” was signed on Jan. 10, according to a clearly legible certification.

The invoice submitted to the city by Bloomz appears to follow figures mentioned in the contract signed on Jan. 9.

Both contracts call for the city to make thousands of dollars in payments for the development of the software and represent hundreds of thousands of dollars in value for Bloomz.

Bell is authorized to make payments on the city’s behalf of up to $5,000 without city council approval, city officials told News 8, but it’s clear that both contracts exceed that amount to initiate the Bloomz software.

The latter signed contract calls for a $20,000 onetime setup cost and monthly billing at a rate of $2 per household user. The deal estimates 4,700 household users for a cost of $9,400 each month. In the second year of the contract, the per-user cost increases to $5 per household with a monthly charge of $23,500 per month.

It appears that the contract calls for users of the application to pay subscription fees to cover monthly costs, but the contract indicates that the city would be on the hook for any money not paid by subscriptions.

“Should the revenues generated by user subscriptions by Bloomz payment system fail to meet that amount the difference shall be deemed a shortage and the city shall be invoiced for the shortage.”

The “Final” proposal signed on Jan. 6 spells out a different fee schedule. It puts the city on the hook for $12,134 in setup costs but it breaks the payment up into three categories keeping each at $5,000 or less.

“Terminology changes” cost $3,567, “Roles and Onboarding changes” cost $3,567 and the three-month “Pilot period” costs $5,000. This contract bills at $5 per household starting in November estimating that 3,564 households will use the service at a total cost of $17,820 each month.

This version of the contract called for a “trial” period that would last until Nov. 1 when the city could elect whether to continue using the application.

Both contract versions listed Bell’s personal email address and his former home address in Indiana on the documents.

The city received an invoice from Bloomz dated March 1 that appears to request a subscription payment for $9,400. Someone crossed out the figure and wrote $7,128 by hand on the document.

The city issued a check to Bloomz for $3,564 on March 26. News 8 requested all payment records pertaining to Bloomz and only one check copy was provided. A purchase order signed by Bell requested $7,128 for the vendor.

The city council also had concerns about how Bell handled his own pay, the city attorney told News 8. He said Bell had agreed to work part-time at an hourly rate of just over $44. But once bell went full time and obtained his certification from the International City Management Association, he was to collect a straight salary of $85,000 for his first year.

The city attorney said Bell continued to charge the city an hourly rate causing him to receive more pay than he would have had he switched to a salary. 

Another concern came to light following a published report about a job Bell interviewed for in California.

Bell traveled to the west coast to interview for a principal administrative analyst role. He went on the interview in January, less than five months after signing a contract committing to serve Muskegon Heights for three years, a published news report indicates.

The website called “2UrbanGirls” published images of records that indicate Bell flew from West Michigan to California on Jan. 21 and returned on Jan. 22.

Muskegon Heights timecard records for Bell obtained by News 8 indicate he clocked 12 hours on Jan. 21 and 22.

Another concern the city council had involved Bell’s role in an incident at the Meijer store in Norton Shores where Bell reportedly showed a badge causing concern that he may have been posing as a police officer.

Norton Shores initially told News 8 that the case was closed, and charges were never sought due to a lack of clarity about what happened and no complainant pushing for charges.

But now Norton Shores Police Chief Jon Gale said his department has decided to reopen the investigation. He didn’t immediately provide information about what prompted the move.

A Freedom of Information Act request seeking police reports connected to the incident was denied citing the active investigation.

News 8 reached out to Bell, Muskegon Heights Mayor Walter Watt and the city attorney for comment on the findings revealed in the newly released records.

Watt was the only one to respond immediately. The mayor is a well-documented supporter of Bell’s. He cast one of two votes against suspending him in the first place.

He addressed the timecard questions in a statement sent via text message.

“Please be advised that Mr. Bell was transparent about his interview in California and shared with me that he was declining the offer because of his commitment to the city despite the offer of considerably more money.  He left on an evening flight after work hours on the 21st and returned the next day.  During his time away Mr. Bell continued to manage the business of the city via email and telephone. Despite the apparent discrepancy on the time sheet, Mr. Bell worked well in excess of 40 hours during the work week in question, including work on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday for which he was not paid,” Watt’s statement read. “When he remarked in Jan. about adjusting the time sheet, it wasn’t necessary. Mr. Bell has consistently worked in excess of 40 hours per week since starting as City Manager in Muskegon Heights.”

Bell’s paid suspension was set to last two weeks. It ends Monday. The city council is expected to discuss Bell’s fate at its next meeting Monday evening at 5:30 p.m.