Benton Harbor city manager fired, now has new role

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BENTON HARBOR, Mich. (WNDU) - In a 5-3 vote on Monday night, the Benton Harbor City Commission voted to fire Darwin Watson, and not even 24 hours later, he has a new job.

Mayor Marcus Muhammad named Watson the new director of public works and chief of staff at a press conference Tuesday afternoon.

The mayor touted many of the financial successes Watson had as city manager as reasons for keeping him around.

"We have over $4 million in surplus, we have over $3 million in the rainy day fund. When the federal government shut down, we were still able to complete projects," Muhammad said. "He's worthy of this hire."

Not everyone was happy about the decision Tuesday. One Benton Harbor resident said the mayor has a history of ignoring the city commission.

"The commission has questions that they emailed him about that he has not emailed them or got back with them, so it's just as if he overlooks it, it doesn't mean anything to him. So, this just didn't come overnight," Marvin Haywood said.

Others in attendance said they believe the mayor needs more support from the public and recommended that others trust Muhammad's judgement.

"We need to get behind this mayor. This mayor has only been the mayor for two years now. The other two years belonged to the emergency manager. His hands were tied. We need to stand behind this mayor and the city manager and move everybody together," Michael Hohy said. "If one moves forward, we all move forward."

One of the commissioners who voted to fire Watson was at the press conference Tuesday, and 16 News Now got her reaction afterward.

"That it was out of line. It's against what the will of the body wanted, and it was disrespectful" Juanita Henry said. "When we have an aggressive mayor who does things against the rules, the council's rules, as well as bullying the other colleagues, and there's a divide. When was the last time that we ever had three elected officials trying to unseat a mayor? There's a reason for that."