According to documents obtained by The Beacon, at the time this picture was taken Sept. 18, Michael Forrester, standing prominently at left in blue, was in-between periods of suspension without pay after Susan Clark and another Neighborhood Center official determined Forrester had had an “inappropriate personal relationship” with a former Bridge client.

The former director of DeLand’s homeless shelter was disciplined during his tenure at the facility for having an “inappropriate personal relationship” with a former shelter client, City of DeLand documents show.

Michael Forrester, who was abruptly fired from his position at The Bridge homeless shelter three months after the disciplinary action, said he had only been trying to help a client get housing after the client didn’t get help from The Bridge.

“Yeah, because there was a text message of me meeting with the client, to give them the resources that they need so they could get housing because I was working with other agencies, instead of working with the agency in-house that was dragging their feet on helping the client,” Forrester told The Beacon.

Forrester was fired by The Neighborhood Center, which operates The Bridge — and hires and fires The Bridge personnel — under contract with the City of DeLand.

Neighborhood Center officials would not confirm the reason for Forrester’s firing, or say whether the firing was connected to the earlier disciplinary action.

Forrester has moved on, and is now working in child care in Flagler County, a job he got four hours after he was fired from The Bridge, he said.

“When people do people wrong, and then you walk out the door, and then four hours later, you have another job to go to — God doesn’t make any mistakes,” Forrester said.

The timing of Forrester’s unpaid suspension from The Bridge homeless shelter was apparently staggered so he could take part in a gala opening for The Bridge. The suspension was split into two one-week increments — Sept. 8-14 and Sept. 23-29 — allowing him to attend the official ribbon-cutting ceremony on Sept. 18.

The suspension had been mandated Sept. 8 after leadership at The Neighborhood Center viewed “numerous incriminating text messages” evidencing the relationship with the former client, according to the city documents.

Forrester was reprimanded in a meeting with The Neighborhood Center’s then-Chief Executive Officer Susan Clark and then-Chief Operating Officer Harry Robinson. Other records from Forrester’s tenure show he got “excellent” and “outstanding” performance reviews during his approximately one year on the job.

Robinson left the Neighborhood Center in November. Clark stepped down from her position as CEO Dec. 9, after 15 years at the agency, and Forrester was suddenly fired on Dec. 14.

Clark could not be reached for a comment.

— Noah Hertz contributed to this report

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