Oakland Town Manager Ella Bowman is shown in April after being recognized as municipal employee of the year by the Mid-Maine Chamber of Commerce. In a surprise move, the Town Council on Wednesday placed Bowman on administrative leave. She says she was given no explanation for the move. Rich Abrahamson/Morning Sentinel file

OAKLAND — In a surprise move, the Town Council on Wednesday placed Town Manager Ella Bowman on administrative leave, offering no explanation for the suspension.

“They have effectively taken my knees out from under me,” Bowman, a 24-year employee of the town, said Thursday.

Council Chairman Mike Perkins said he could not discuss the matter.

“I have no comment,” he said by phone Thursday. “I can’t explain that reason right now. I can’t say anything on it.”

Perkins called Bowman following Wednesday’s council meeting to tell her she was being “suspended,” according to Bowman.

She said two executive sessions were scheduled for the meeting, which she attended, and one was about a property matter and the other about a personnel matter unrelated to her. Then Perkins said there would be another executive session, this one centered on Bowman, and he asked her to leave the meeting, Bowman said.


She complied but said later she regretted leaving because she had a right to be there. It was after that executive session that Perkins called to tell her of her suspension, she said. She asked him why and he said he couldn’t tell her.

Matt Tarasevich, an attorney with the Portland firm Bernstein Shur which represents the town, said Thursday that it was not a suspension.

“It’s paid, non-disciplinary administrative leave,” he said, adding that the town is “constrained” from giving a reason for the leave because it involves a “confidential internal personnel matter.”

“That’s all we can say at this time,” Tarasevich said.

Bowman said she should have been allowed in the executive session as it involved her, but Tarasevich said the town is allowed, under a special provision of the state Freedom of Access Act, to consult with counsel about legal rights and obligations. Bowman, he said, did not have the right to be there.

“It was just to get legal advice,” he said.


The Maine Municipal Association provides guidance to towns on an array of matters, including public access laws, but Kate Dufour, legislative advocate for MMA, said she couldn’t comment on the Oakland meeting because she wasn’t familiar with all the circumstances.

Bowman, 63, who is transgender and says she is the only “out” transgender town manager in the country, has been on the job nine years. Before that, she was a police officer for the town for 15 years. As town manager she supervises 115 full- and part-time employees.

She said she has never been written up during her employment or had any disciplinary issues.

“I have never had a single complaint, ever,” she said. “This is hard to take when you’ve had such a reputation throughout. I pride myself for 24 years being a public servant for the town of Oakland. I always give 110 percent and it just feels wrong what’s happening.”

Bowman posted on the town’s Facebook page early Thursday that she wanted people to hear from her about her status before they heard it through rumors.

“I was asked to leave our council meeting last night before it ended,” she said in the post. “I later received a call from the council chair advising me that I had been suspended from my post as town manager. I’m not exactly sure why.”


Bowman was named the Oakland Police Department’s officer of the year in 2003 and again in 2010. In 2020 Oakland was recognized by the Mid-Maine Chamber of Commerce with a community service award and earlier this year Bowman was named municipal employee of the year by the chamber.

Kelly Roderick, who is active on town committees and other affairs, expressed “absolute utter shock” at the council’s action.

“Ella has been the stabilizing force in our community — that’s the best way I can describe her,” Roderick said Thursday.

Roderick, a former school board member who serves on the town’s tax increment financing committee, budget committee and other panels, said she has worked with Bowman on many projects and Bowman does a lot of work under the radar.

“The stuff that she does for the town has made us all very proud to have her as our leader because she cares so much for our community,” Roderick said. “I’m in shock. I’m proud to say she is my town manager.”

Roderick said Bowman supports municipal employees and has ensured their salaries have been brought up to par with salaries in area towns.

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