Oakland Town Manager Ella Bowman is shown at the Oakland Town Office in April. She was placed on administrative leave this week by the Town Council and she said Friday that she was notified that it stems from a complaint filed by a municipal employee. Rich Abrahamson/Morning Sentinel file

OAKLAND — Town Manager Ella Bowman said she was notified Friday that the reason she was suspended from her duties this week was because of a complaint filed against her.

The Town Council placed Bowman on paid administrative leave Wednesday night but did not explain the reason to her at the time. An attorney for the town, Matt Tarasevich, described it as “non-disciplinary” leave.

Bowman said she received a letter in the mail from council Chairman Michael Perkins saying the reason was due to a complaint filed by a municipal employee and that an investigator was being hired to look into the matter.

“It’s a complaint with maybe one or more employees,” Bowman said. “I haven’t figured that out yet. I haven’t got the details on any of it.”

The letter instructs her not to go into the town office, access her email or the town’s Facebook account, she said.

Bowman, 63, has been town manager nine years and was an Oakland police officer for 15 years before that. She is a year into a three-year contract and has automatic renewal of that contract, with yearly evaluations.


“My evaluation has always been ‘exceeds,'” she said. “I’ve always been an overperforming employee. It’s always been a glowing evaluation, every year. That’s why this is blowing me right out of the water.”

Perkins declined to discuss the letter or the council action against Bowman, directing questions to Tarasevich, who is an attorney with the Portland firm Bernstein Shur, which represents the town.

“I’m not trying to be rude,” Perkins said Friday. “This is such a sensitive matter, I cannot comment on it.”

Tarasevich did not return a phone call Friday.

Some Oakland residents have come to Bowman’s defense, speculating that there have been efforts to remove her from office because she is transgender. She began her gender transition two years ago and that is when the backlash began, they contend.

Oakland resident Erica LaCroix, who also is Winslow’s town manager, wrote on the town of Oakland’s Facebook page that Bowman has an excellent reputation among her peers and is progressive, proactive, fair and kind.


“This move is not about performance,” LaCroix wrote, later saying, “The residents of Oakland should be writing our councilors and showing up at the next (council) meeting on Sept. 13 in protest.”

That meeting is scheduled for 6 p.m. and prior to that, at 5 p.m., a gathering is scheduled outside the fire station to show support for Bowman and protest the council’s actions, according to supporters.

A petition effort also is afoot to recall the five members of the Town Council.

Resident Tyler Backus said Friday that he is starting the petition effort and needs about 368 signatures, which is approximately 10 percent of the number of voters in town who cast ballots in the last gubernatorial election.

“There could be a very legitimate reason that the Town Council took the steps it did. However, they didn’t follow established procedures on how to get there,” Backus said.

He said the decision to put Bowman on leave seemed to happen with no discussion beforehand and with no notice, showing councilors appear to have discussed the matter in private.


“That’s outside the letter of the law and Maine’s open meeting law,” said Backus, who has sat on various town committees. “That irks me.”

Oakland council meetings typically are recorded but the recording equipment wasn’t working Wednesday, according to Bowman.

She said she attended the meeting and there were two executive sessions scheduled on the agenda, but neither were about her.

Then Perkins announced another executive session was going to be held, which was about her, and then he asked her to leave, she said. She said she complied but later regretted doing so as she felt she had the right to attend.

But Tarasevich asserted on Thursday that she was not allowed to attend. He said there are stipulations in the state open access law that allows a council to meet privately when seeking counsel advice on legal rights and obligations.

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