Galveston County commissioners fired their top facilities manager Nov. 12.
In a meeting lasting less than five minutes, commissioners unanimously voted to fire Michael Bell, who’d been director of facilities management since 2012.
Before the vote, Bell asked commissioners to reconsider, saying he had been doing the work of “two or three people.”
“We used to have an architect, a property manager and a toll bridge manager and another facility manager, but it’s just me now,” Bell said. “I handled all those things and a multitude of other projects and major repairs every day.”
Bell said he thought commissioners were disappointed with progress on the Wayne Johnson Community Center in La Marque, which was damaged by Hurricane Harvey in August 2017.
None of the commissioners addressed why they were voting to fire Bell during the meeting.
Galveston County Judge Mark Henry declined to talk specifically about Bell’s firing or performance.
The county had eliminated some facility positions, such as the county architect, since he took office in 2010, Henry said. Those duties had not fallen entirely to Bell, however, he said.
County employees had complained about the state of some among more than 60 buildings the county owns, Henry said. He said he hoped those problems would be addressed with Bell’s departure.
“We would like a department where we don’t get complaints,” he said.
During the Nov. 12 meeting, Henry apologized to Bell for publicly firing him, saying county attorneys had advised the court to do so because of a lawsuit the county is facing from a different former employee.
“I don’t think this is the way it should be handled, but thanks to allegations in a lawsuit by Bonnie Quiroga this is the advice from our attorneys at this point,” Henry said.
Bell was paid about $91,000 a year.
A county spokesman said the county has not yet decided whether to advertise for the position or hire internally. Henry said he believed there were people within the county that were qualified to take the position.