City Fires First Head Of Office of Economic Opportunity

Mayor Nutter's staff, while announcing changes over at the Department of Commerce yesterday, left out one interesting detail:  Michael Bell, executive director of the city's Office of Economic Opportunity, just got fired.  We tracked down Bell at home a few minutes ago and he confirmed that he was fired yesterday.  “I prefer not to comment," Bell added. "It’s just a whole lot of mixed emotions right now.”

Bell worked for the city for 17 years and was earning a $86,553 annual salary, according to city payroll records.  He was director of compliance for the city's Office of Housing and Community Development until Oct. 1, when Mayor Nutter announced that he was dissolving the city's Minority Business Enterprise Council [MBEC] and creating the Office of Economic Opportunity.  Bell was installed as the new agency's first executive director.  Nutter, in announcing the moves on Oct. 1, said the new agency "sets the tone" that said he was serious about improving business opportunities in the for companies owned by minorities, women and the physically disabled.

In yesterday's announcement, Nutter's staff said Kevin Dow, Deputy Director of Commerce for Neighborhood and Business Services, will assume the new role of acting chief operating officer for the Commerce Department. Dow’s duties will continue to involve small business development, minority participation and neighborhood revitalization, PhillyClout was told.

UPDATE, 2:50 pm:  Nutter's press office just put out a statement, saying Bell's firing wasn't part of yesterday's announcement because the two events were "separate unrelated issues." 

Here's the administration's explanation on why Bell was let go:  "While we appreciate Mr. Bell's years of service to the City of Philadelphia, for a number of reasons there wasn't as much progress made in his portfolio as we would have liked. Given the importance of increasing minority business participation and ensuring that economic opportunity is available to all, we felt that now was a good time to make a change."