December 31, 2012

Old Orchard official placed on paid leave

But officials are not saying why Bill Robertson is on paid leave, when it began or how long it might last.

By Gillian Graham ggraham@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

OLD ORCHARD BEACH —Old Orchard Beach's public works director is on paid administrative leave, but town officials aren't saying why.

Assistant Town Manager V. Louise Reid said Bill Robertson continues receiving his benefits while he's on leave. Michael Perrone is acting director of the department.

Reid would not say why Robertson is on leave or provide other details, such as when the leave began and how long it might last.

Town Manager Mark Pearson is out of the office until Wednesday and was not available for comment Monday. Robertson also could not be reached for comment Monday.

Email messages between town officials indicate that there was tension between Robertson and Pearson for months. The emails were provided by the town in response to a public records request from the Portland Press Herald.

On Dec. 21, Town Council Chairwoman Sharri MacDonald sent an email to councilors saying a resident had told her that Robertson had been placed on leave. She said she had no other information.

On Dec. 26, Robertson sent an email to MacDonald, saying Pearson's past actions toward him were "threatening bullying and stalking in my mind."

Robertson said Pearson drove past the public works department on Smithwheel Road twice on Oct. 4, after Robertson missed a training course on how to evaluate employees.

Robertson also said in the email that Pearson drove behind the public works department on Nov. 13, stopped and looked in Robertson's window before leaving.

"Now this action clearly suggests threatening, bullying or stalking," Robertson wrote.

Robertson also said Pearson made comments about Robertson's hearing disability at least six times, including in front of public works employees and a resident. He said he contacted the town's human resources specialist about lodging a complaint against Pearson, but never heard back from her.

MacDonald asked Pearson to resign in December, saying she did not feel that he was a good fit for the town.

Pearson, who became town manager in February, would not resign, and a council meeting called to discuss his contract on Dec. 12 turned into a three-hour public hearing in which residents spoke in support of the town manager.

At that meeting, MacDonald said a town employee had a complaint about Pearson, but she would not elaborate on the nature of the issue. Pearson said he was not aware of any allegations against him by any town employee.

In an email exchange in response to MacDonald's message on Dec. 21, councilors indicated that they didn't know about Robertson being placed on leave.

Councilor Dana Furtado wrote of the proximity to Christmas and said he hoped that MacDonald was joking.

Councilor Michael Coleman wrote that he was sure there had to be a reason. "I don't believe it would have happened otherwise," he said.

Staff Writer Gillian Graham can be contacted at 791-6315 or at:

ggraham@pressherald.com

Twitter: grahamgillian

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