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Another claim of tie to Bell rings untrue

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Mayor Mike Bell says a woman found in a house where a man died is not a relative.

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They don't send birthday or Christmas cards, but every now and then, the mayor hears that he has a new relative.

Or, rather, he hears someone in the city is claiming to be a relative.

It doesn't happen all the time, but in the past year, people who share Mayor Mike Bell's last name tell officials, sales clerks, hostesses -- whomever -- that they are a cousin, niece, nephew, aunt, or uncle of the mayor.

"I'm quite sure it works on some things, probably minor stuff anyway," Mayor Bell said.

But probably not all that often. It didn't work this week for a young woman who reportedly told Toledo police that she was related to the mayor.

City spokesman Jen Sorgenfrei said Tyeisha Bell, 20, who was inside a North Toledo home when Junior Francous was shot and killed on Wednesday, reportedly told police she was the mayor's niece.

Police called Public Safety Director Shirley Green, who then called Mayor Bell, to confirm.

It turns out Ms. Bell is no relative of his.

"There's absolutely nothing I can do [to help them]," Mayor Bell said. "It's like if they want to use the president's name to get them out of trouble. There's nothing you can do. The nice part is that the system we have in place will check all that anyway. And if someone has done wrong, it doesn't matter what my name is, they have to follow through with consequences."

Police did not file falsification charges against Ms. Bell.

A woman with the same name, who lists Toledo as her city of residence on Facebook, did not respond to a message for comment.

The mayor said that, in Toledo, his only family comprises a niece, his parents, and a couple of cousins.

"I guess it's a compliment that they think I can help them," the mayor said of familial impostors.

With a name like Bell, this was bound to happen -- and has been happening since he was the city's fire chief, a post he held from 1990 to 2007. According to the U.S. Census, Bell was the 58th most common last name in 1990 and the 67th most common last name in 2000.It's not always because people are in trouble that they claim to be family members. They might use the name as leverage in finding a better deal on something they'd like to purchase, get a seat at a restaurant, or be let into a crowded event, the mayor said.

"If you're [doing] OK, that will happen; if you're not, it won't," Mayor Bell said. "I guess I can gauge that I'm doing all right. If you're doing something really, really wrong, nobody is going to use your name."

The mayor said he met another man named Mike Bell last week at a Mud Hens game. The two, both wearing name tags, stood side by side.

The mayor said he asked Mr. Bell, president of the Community Shares Board of Directors, if calls for the mayor are diverted to him.

He told the other Mr. Bell to "keep handling them," the mayor said with a laugh.

Contact Taylor Dungjen at: tdungjen@theblade.com, 419-724-6054, or on Twitter @tdungjen_Blade.

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