Winthrop Town Manager Jeff Kobrock stands near Maranacook Lake on Norcross Point in Winthrop on March 11, 2022, after the town enacted a controversial mooring ordinance for boats on local waters. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal file

WINTHROP — Town Manager Jeff Kobrock has announced his resignation in six months, citing the worst bullying, threats and harassment he’s ever faced following a controversial local ordinance to regulate boat moorings.

Kobrock on Monday gave a six-month notice, which he said will hopefully give officials ample time to find a successor, adding that the period between January and July is particularly busy as it involves setting the budget.

Council Chairperson Sarah Fuller said that Kobrock’s contract will end July 5, at which point he’ll retire.

“I’m not pleased to give my notice,” Kobrock, who is 65, said. “It’s personally difficult and disruptive to leave my job. I’ve found the work here to be rewarding and challenging. The team at the staff level is truly extraordinary. This community is blessed to have some of the most creative and committed public servants I’ve ever had the pleasure to work with.”

However, he said a small group of residents have “adopted a personal mission” to attack the town’s staff and leadership.

“These attacks are personal, hurtful, degrading and deeply disturbing,” he said. “Municipal staff and leadership are constantly subjected to intimidation, harassment, bullying and threats.”


Because some councilors are concerned for their safety, Kobrock said they make sure to leave meetings as a group, because the parking lot is now a threatening and scary spot. They have also asked for a police presence at recent meetings.

Winthrop Police Chief Ryan Frost was not immediately available for comment Tuesday.

Kobrock said while he’s weathered crises and hardship throughout his career, he’s never experienced anything like this. “It has had a profound effect on my well-being,” he said.

Kobrock’s annual salary is $112,466. When he was hired in 2019, he was given a one-year contract with an option for a three-year renewal. The end of that three-year renewal period would have been April 1, but the council voted to make his last day July 5.

Some residents began speaking out against Kobrock and other town officials following a controversial mooring ordinance, which went into effect last July.

The ordinance specifically targeted a cove near Norcross Point which contained several moorings. Boaters and town officials have debated exactly how many moorings were in the area at its busiest, with Kobrock saying it had up to 20 at one point, and boaters opposed to the ordinance saying it was never this high.


Kobrock, after the ordinance was passed, said the ordinance was related to the Norcross Point redevelopment project, which is an attempt to “refresh a heavily used and very much beloved public recreation area.”

Boaters since uncovered, via FOAA request, emails from Kobrock asking an attorney how the town can specifically target moorings in this area, and emails from Fuller, who they say would benefit from increased business at Van der Brew, since the ordinance may lead to the installation of floating docks near the business, of which she is the vice president. Fuller said the emails were in reference to the appearance of a conflict, not a legitimate one.

Since making this discovery, a group of 15 residents on Sept. 9 sent a threat of legal action to the town from attorney Jed Davis. In the letter, Davis wrote that they would not seek legal action if the town takes action to repeal the ordinance.

Davis, who served as town manager in Readfield and Fayette for several years, and has been on both sides of municipal litigation, concluded by saying this was one of the most egregious examples of conflict-of-interest he had ever seen by Maine municipal officials. Councilor James Steele was among the 15 residents listed on the letter from Davis.

As someone both taking action against the town and serving as an elected official, Steele said he has not seen any harassment, bullying or threats, and that he does not condone that behavior.

He said that, according to the emails they uncovered, Kobrock had a responsibility to stop any conflicts of interest, and did not do so.


“If it’s getting to be too much for him to handle that situation, then it’s probably in his best interest that he does step down and resign,” said Steele.

He said that at least a couple dozen residents who are unconnected to the mooring issue have approached him asking that he not renew Kobrock’s contract.

Fuller said on Tuesday that some examples of harassment she’s experienced include people showing up at events where she was scheduled to be and tracking down councilors on social media.

“I know they said they’ve slowly driven by one councilor’s house, and another councilor’s grandchild was harassed,” she said. “They told them their grandfather was a bad man. It’s been an ongoing campaign that has affected a number of councilors.”

Steele said he had never heard of this happening, and that it’s not something he or anyone involved with the mooring group would support.

“None of us support bullying,” he said. “We never have.”


Fuller said members of the planning board have also been targeted, and the tension has risen to the point where poll workers have asked for protection during the election, out of fear of what some residents may do.

The town recently agreed to revisit the mooring ordinance, and in December estimated that they may have a new draft ready to present to the public by February.

Kobrock said that he sincerely hopes the town will eventually overcome the “ill will that’s driving a very small group of people to destroy what is really good about Winthrop.”

Fuller said Kobrock has been a tremendous asset, and has brought stability and strategic thinking to the town, particularly through long-term budgeting and capital improvement planning.

“He’s had a long-standing, great career in public service, and I’m sorry that this is the note it goes out on,” she said. “No one should have to endure this kind of treatment, especially in public service.”

Kobrock was hired as Winthrop’s town manager in 2019, after having previously served as executive director for the Midcoast Council of Governments and Midcoast Economic Development District and as the city manager in Gardiner for nine years. His departure as manager in Gardiner in 2009 came after he and councilors couldn’t reach an agreement to renew his contract, which had expired the previous year.

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