Chief Administrative Officer Troy Bell resigned late Friday after questions were raised about whether he had lied in his application to become the top deputy at Baton Rouge's City Hall.
The resignation of the new CAO, who had been named by Mayor-President Sharon Weston Broome just five days earlier, came hours after The Advocate reported that he lied on his resume about holding a master's degree in public administration. The story also raised other questions about Bell's work history.
Bell's application touted him as having extensive experience running government agencies and noted that he was what he called a "continuing guest lecturer" at Purdue University. The Advocate revealed that Bell never received the master’s degree he claimed, that he was fired from at least three previous government jobs and that his name was not in Purdue’s faculty records.
Update, 5:33 p.m.: Troy Bell has resigned. Click here to read more.
When initially asked to respond to the findings early Friday morning, Broome released a statement through her spokeswoman saying she would review them. Shortly before 6 p.m. on Friday, her office announced that she had accepted Bell’s resignation.
“I am disappointed that he chose to withhold information about his background while interviewing for and subsequently accepting the position of chief administrative officer,” Broome said in a statement. “I will not let this be a distraction to the commitment I have made to the people of the City of Baton Rouge and East Baton Rouge Parish. The mayor-president’s office will continue to serve our fellow residents in an efficient manner as we have since the beginning of my tenure.”
Broome did not return messages on Friday.
In an interview shortly after the announcement, Bell defended the assertions on his resume, saying he did not think his job application material was “deliberately inaccurate.”
Bell said he has documents that show he had completed coursework to qualify for an MPA at Bernard M. Baruch College of the City University of New York, but that he did not have a diploma because he has not yet completed coursework above the minimum master’s requirements. He did not provide the records Friday. He similarly held firm on claims that he left previous government posts voluntarily and is considered a university lecturer.
Given the chance, Bell said he could have proven both his experience and his value to East Baton Rouge.
“I’m disappointed that opportunity won’t be available,” he said while boarding a flight bound for a conference for public administrators.
After more than four months in office and a long search process, Mayor-President Sharon West…
The Advocate is waiting on a public records request for Bell's offer letter that includes the salary he was offered. When Broome advertised for the position, the salary range was listed between $89,748 to $149,155 annually.
Both on the resume he submitted to East Baton Rouge Parish government when he applied for the job and on his LinkedIn page, Bell says he holds an MPA from Baruch College.
His resume says he received a 2011 degree, noting that this included a concentration in city management and he was at the top of his class in the School of Public Affairs. But Bell never completed the necessary coursework to receive his MPA and never received a degree, according to a university spokeswoman.
"He owes money and, second, his coursework — he has not completed," said Neftalie Danier, the school's assistant director of alumni relations, after conferring with the university's registrar's office.
The news release announcing Bell's hiring on Monday noted that he "completed a Master of Public Administration degree" from the Baruch School of Public Affairs, as well as multiple bachelor's degrees from the University of Miami.
Bell's job history initially came into question after he was announced Monday by Broome as her new chief administrative officer. A 2006 article in the Tallahassee-Democrat newspaper indicated he was fired from two positions in Florida state government, while another article indicated he was terminated last fall from his most recent position as deputy city manager in Walla Walla, Washington.
Bell acknowledged being fired in Walla Walla. But he emphatically said Monday -- and maintained again Friday after his resignation was announced -- that he voluntarily left jobs at the South Florida Water Management District and the real estate division of the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation.
Termination letters obtained by The Advocate confirm he was fired, in one case following a paid suspension while he was placed under investigation. The letters are addressed to Darryl Bell; the former chief administrative officer's full name is Darryl LeTroy Bell.
“This letter is to confirm your separation from the District effective as of August 12, 2003. ... You may also submit a written response to the charges and circumstances surrounding your termination for inclusion in your personnel file,” wrote Water Management District Human Resources Director Sandra Close-Turnquest.
A second letter by Real Estate Division Director Michael Murphy said, “This letter is to officially notify you that the Department of Business and Professional Regulation has determined that your services ... are no longer needed, effective 5 p.m. Tuesday, July 18 2006.” The real estate division is a branch of the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation.
Before he was fired from the real estate division, Bell was placed on leave and barred from contacting staff or coming into department facilities, according to another letter.
The 2006 story in the Tallahassee Democrat said Bell was fired from the Florida Division of Real Estate for lying about the circumstances under which he left the water management district. Bell said Monday he left due to turmoil amid a change in the governor’s office but maintained that he departed voluntarily.
Bell wrote on his resume that he worked at the water management district between 1997 and 2002, which conflicts with his termination letter, which is dated August 2003. His resume states that he worked at the real estate office in 2003, which is also false. His termination letter after a short tenure at the agency is dated July 2006.
Asked Monday why the dates did not match, Bell acknowledged then that his resume was wrong.
When asked Monday about Bell’s past firings, Broome said she was aware that he was let go from the city manager’s office in Walla Walla, Washington last year, assuring reporters that she knows how to use Google, where a search of his name brings up a news story about the termination. However, when asked if she was aware that he may have been fired from several jobs, she responded, “well, I don’t know about ‘several.’”
Broome said at the time that she felt “assured” that Bell could lead the day-to-day operations of the city because “he certainly rose to the top” during the interview process.
Bell also claimed to be a “ continuing guest lecturer” at Purdue University on his resume, a laurel Broome’s office noted when they announced he had been hired. However, he does not appear in Purdue faculty listings, and university spokesmen Brian Zink and Jim Bush were not able to find any evidence he ever worked there.
Perhaps he was also trained as an engineer, but Troy Bell is no William Daniel.
"This was definitely an effort to massage the truth," said LSU faculty Senate President Kevin Cope. "When a person says 'I am a lecturer' … that means 'I'm on staff.'"
Bell said Friday that he taught voluntarily but maintained that he is a lecturer.
The mayor-president cut her Monday interview short when asked about Bell’s two prior arrests in Florida. He was arrested in 1998 and 2000 with counts including false personation of a law enforcement officer, assault and battery, and battery of a law enforcement officer, though neither case was prosecuted and court and police records have been purged. Bell said that both arrests were based on false accusations.
Broome’s lengthy search for a chief administrative officer started in January, when the city-parish's new Democratic leader took office. Throughout that time, she received 150 applications for the job, based on the resumes of all applicants that The Advocate received through a public records request.
The mayor-president said she interviewed around 10 candidates before deciding on Bell, who she hailed in the news release announcing his hiring as having an “impressive, documented record of public service on federal, state, and local levels.”
When asked to provide a list of all of the applicants who she interviewed for the job, Broome replied that she “preferred not to” because some of them are currently employed and she did not want to jeopardize their jobs.
Some people who applied included Jacques Molaison, a Democrat who was the chief operating officer of Jefferson Parish under John Young’s administration, and Laura Camcioglu, who held multiple public works and information technology leadership positions for the city of Houston. Both said they were never contacted about the job.
Another applicant was Curt Eysink, who ran the Louisiana Workforce Commission under former Gov. Bobby Jindal. Eysink said he had a conversation with Broome about the job after he sent in an application in early March, but that he did not know if he was ever deemed a finalist, nor did Broome have an obligation to tell him why he was not chosen.
A day after announcing her chief administrative officer, Mayor-President Sharon Weston Broom…
For his part, Bell on Friday said his family is trying to figure out their next step. Bell said his wife is preparing for a job interview at LSU and remarked that he may still become a resident of Baton Rouge.
Mayor Pro Tem Scott Wilson expressed disappointment in Broome’s administration upon hearing about Bell’s resignation and wondered whether it will take several more months to install her right-hand administrator.
“They didn’t do their job. They didn’t do their due diligence," the Republican head of the Metro Council said. "This is what you bring after a national search?”