OAKLAND — Oakland residents packed the Town Council meeting Wednesday seeking answers to why Town Manager Ella Bowman was placed on paid administrative leave about three weeks ago.

They got few answers, as council Chairman Michael Perkins said councilors are prohibited by law from publicly discussing personnel matters.

Matthew Tarasevich, a lawyer who advised councilors before they voted to put Bowman on leave last month, also declined to answer most questions, including one about the contents of Perkins’ letter to Bowman explaining the reason for her suspension.

“It is a confidential personnel record,” Tarasevich said. “We’re not going to discuss anything about it, period. That’s the law.”

Town Manager Ella Bowman at the Oakland Town Office in April. She was placed on administrative leave last month by the Town Council. Many of her supporters attended a council meeting Wednesday to oppose her suspension. The council has offered no public explanation for why Bowman was placed on leave. Rich Abrahamson/Morning Sentinel file

Bowman, 63, was placed on what the town explained as paid nondisciplinary administrative leave Aug. 23 following a Town Council executive session that was not publicized on the Town Council agenda. Bowman said later that Perkins told her the private session was about her and he asked her to leave, which she did. After the meeting, Perkins called her to say she was being put on leave but would not explain why.

On Aug. 25, Bowman received a letter from Perkins in the mail saying the reason she was placed on leave was that a municipal employee had filed a complaint against her and an independent investigator was being hired to look into the matter.


Bowman, who did not attend Wednesday’s meeting, has said she is the only “out” transgender town manager in the country. Many at the meeting said they fear the council’s action against Bowman is related to her being transgender.

“I think it’s an underlying cause,” said Karen Heck, a Waterville resident who owns a business in Oakland.

Heck, a former Waterville mayor, and about 40 others arrived early for the 6 p.m. council meeting, gathering outside the fire station and carrying signs.

Kelly Graham Roderick’s sign read “TRANSparency for Ella.”

Roderick, who is active in Oakland affairs and organized the event with Alicia Barnes, said Bowman is a grounding force for the community, has done much for the town and supports all town employees and residents.

“I hate to think that this is the reason why — that she’s transgender,” Roderick said.


Joyce St. Pierre said she was angry about the situation and attended the meeting to get answers.

“I was so drawn here, like a magnet,” St. Pierre said. “I never go to rallies or protests or anything like that, but I had to be here tonight to find out what this is all about. This is bull crap, keeping people in the dark. It’d better be bad.”

Barnes said the Town Council is not being accountable for the way it conducts business. She said she does not want to assume Bowman is being targeted because she is transgender, but Bowman worked for the town for many years before transitioning and had no issues.

“I think it’s a little suspect,” Barnes said.

Michael Lemieux responds Wednesday to Chairman Michael Perkins of the Oakland Town Council during a discussion about Town Manager Ella Bowman at a council meeting at the Oakland Fire Station. Rich Abrahamson/Morning Sentinel

Under Maine’s Freedom of Access Act, the Morning Sentinel requested copies of municipal records regarding the complaint filed against Bowman, with any appropriate redaction of personal information, if necessary. The Sentinel also requested copies of any documents, emails or other information related to the complaint.

Tarasevich denied the newspaper’s request, writing in an email that the information being sought, “to the extent it exists, are confidential personnel information and are not public records subject to disclosure.”


Bowman has been the Oakland town manager for 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.

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.

She said she has never been written up during her 24-year employment with the town or had disciplinary issues.

Bowman said earlier Wednesday she would not attend the rally or Town Council meeting. She said she is scheduled to be interviewed next week by the investigator the town has hired to look into the complaint. She said having had the past three weeks off from work has been difficult.

Karen Heck addresses the Oakland Town Council regarding suspended Town Manager Ella Bowman during a council meeting Wednesday in Oakland. Heck, a former Waterville mayor, lives in Waterville and has a business in Oakland. Rich Abrahamson/Morning Sentinel

At the meeting, which drew about 80 people, resident Michael Lemieux said he was taken aback when Perkins came to his house at 9 p.m. recently and tried to convince him to take his side in the Bowman case. Lemieux said Perkins was “trying to convince me that he was not homophobic,” and told Lemieux and his son details of the reason Bowman was placed on leave.

“To me, that was unethical,” said Lemieux, a physician. “I didn’t like it, and that’s the reason I’m here tonight. I have a feeling deep in my gut that there is something stinky going on, and I don’t like it.”


Perkins read aloud a message he said he received from Lemieux prior to visiting Lemieux’s house, saying Perkins should be ashamed for being so closed-minded and making Bowman’s life miserable.

“That’s what you wrote, so I tried to call you twice to speak to you,” Perkins said. “Thank you. We’re done.”

Chairman Michael Perkins, left, of the Oakland Town Council responds Wednesday to resident Michael Lemieux during a discussion about suspended Town Manager Ella Bowman during a council meeting at the Oakland Fire Station. Councilor Dana Wrigley is seated at right. Rich Abrahamson/Morning Sentinel

State Sen. David LaFountain, D-District 16, who defeated Perkins last year for the Senate seat, attended the gathering outside the fire station. He said he was not privy to the complaint against Bowman, but was there to support her.

“She has been an exemplary employee,” LaFountain said. “She has done a lot for the town, and if my being here helps her get her due process, I’m glad I’m here. People need to stand up and support her and appreciate what she’s done for the town.”

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